Over the years there have been many different food trends. While I am certain that what you eat can indeed affect your health, it’s hard to know just what to do and who’s plan to follow. As a wife, mother and homemaker, I feel that my family’s health is, at least in part, my responsibility. I am the one who does the grocery shopping and prepares the meals and snacks and treats. It can be a daunting task!
Whether you are preparing food for yourself or for your family, the best thing you can do is to seek for truth for what fits your family. That doesn’t usually mean that it’s the easiest path, but it will affect your wellness every day. As much as the trends come and go, there are a many constant points that stay true. If you are already doing these, way to go! If not, choose one to work on until it becomes a habit, then move on to another.
1. Drink water. Clear and cool, water is cleansing and oh so good for you. Drink a glass in the morning before eating. Add lemon juice for an extra boost. Keep a water bottle close by as you go about your day. A glass of water before meals can also help keep your family from overeating. Opt for water rather than juice, milk or soda at least some of time.
2. Have a plan. Having a plan takes out the stress caused by last minute meal decisions. Without a plan you are more likely to reach for the ease of Mac & Cheese or grab fast food on the way home. A planned meal will almost always be more nutritious, not to mention that it will also save you money. Plan a week, two weeks or even a month ahead. Make a list of your family’s favorite foods for breakfast, lunch, snack time or dinner as a reference and then fill in the calendar. Buy the groceries and do the prep. Don’t worry if you can’t always follow it to a tee. Life happens and things come up, but have a plan and do what you can to stick to it.
3. Keep a well stocked pantry. Another time you will be more likely to crave and eat something less than nutritious is when you find your cupboards bare. Keeping the basic items that you use often readily available will help meal preparations to go more smoothly and successfully. You’ll open the fridge or the pantry and see options and options are good to have.
4. Stock up on a variety of fruits and vegetables. We could all use more fruits and veggies in our diet, but if they’re not in our kitchens and in our fridge, we don’t even have the option. Fresh fruit is easy to have at every breakfast and make great snacks (or even desserts). In order to eat several servings of vegetables each day you need to make sure they are served with lunch, dinner and in between (and kudos to you if you can work them into your breakfast too!). If your kids wander in looking for something to eat before dinner is actually ready, a plate of fresh veggies set out can curb their hunger and assure that they still have an appetite come dinner time. Participating in Bountiful Baskets has been a great way to buy fresh produce for a good price and has pushed our family to try fruits or vegetables we might not normally buy.
5. Limit treats. First I have to admit that I have a sweet tooth. I love cookie dough or brownies, cakes or crisps. But I also recognize that there is way too much sugar in the standard American diet. It has worked well in my family to choose one day a week for treats. We have something to look forward to, which makes it easier to say “no” at other times during the week. It’s adaptable to birthdays or other special events and reinstates the idea that sweets are indeed treats and not the norm. Be adventurous and try sugar substitutes (like honey or stevia).
6. Cook in bulk. One of the hardest parts of healthier habits is that they take time. When you take the time out of your busy day to prepare a nutritious dinner, really make it count. Whenever I make casseroles, soups, lasagna or curry, I like to make enough for dinner, for lunch the next day and then two more meals worth in the freezer to eat in another week or two.
7. Choose real food. As easy as it is to grab a freezer meal or pour something out of a box or a can, these options are anything but nutritious. They are usually highly processed and include an abundance of sugars, bad fats and empty carbs. Make the choice to eat food that your great grandparents ate and you’ll be doing yourself and those you love a favor.
8. Enjoy your food. Take time to sit down and enjoy the food you eat. Taste the flavors and thoroughly chew. This will aid your digestion and can be valuable time to visit with your family or reflect on your day.
Don’t let the fact that leading a healthy lifestyle can be challenging. It does make a difference and it is worth the extra effort.
Natalie Porter is a rancher's wife, mother of two boys and a graduate from Utah State University. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org