Cooking a healthy meal can be a full-time job for any parent. Between planning and organizing, it takes a lot of effort to stay on track. That’s why I have a few hacks on hand to quickly improve the nutrient density in meals.
Quinoa is a great cook ahead that can be sprinkled onto a salad for an exotic addition of protein. It absorbs flavors so you can pair it with any dressing and it will taste great. Quinoa is also a great way to cut back on rice. For recipes that call for rice, try replacing ½ of the amount with quinoa. You will hardly see the difference yet you will improve your nutrition by adding fiber and lowering your glycemic index. Quinoa is a good source of minerals such as folate, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It also contains all the essential amino acids, giving it a high score for a good source of protein. Beware though, it is still a grain and too much of it can be “too much of a good thing”.
Rich in iron and really flavorful, this makes a great addition to the kids’ mac and cheese. They simply LOVE it. Recently I have started experimenting with combining it with cauliflower rice. I sauteed a chopped onion or leek for about 5 minutes, then add the riced cauliflower (2 bags frozen) for another 5 minutes, sprinkle some dill or use fresh if you have, add salt and pepper. After it caramelizes add a bag of frozen spinach and cook for about another 10 minutes. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or some feta and you have a low carb, Greek spanakopita inspired delicious and quick alternative. Spinach is a quick add on to rice, quinoa rice or even sautéed as a side dish. Power up!
Mushrooms act as a major immunity booster that can help the body fight illness as well as several types of cancers. It is recommended that you have a little daily. But who can keep up? Try freezing your mushrooms for easy access to omelets, and sautéed meals. Sautée some with onion and keep in the fridge as a sandwich or salad topper. Consider making mushroom burgers. They are easy, quick and very filling.
These are really misunderstood in my opinion because they are usually eaten out of a can. Try soaking a bag overnight and then giving them a quick boil until soft. No spices needed! After they are softened you can eat them plain -so sweet!- or add them to any salad. Keep in the fridge for an easy add on! You can also throw them in the blender with lemon juice and olive oil for a nice hummus.
The best way to increase your fruit intake is to keep it easily accessible. Take a few minutes to cut fruit and keep it in the fridge. It will more likely be your next snack or meal. My favorites for this are watermelon and honeydew. Another great trick is to load up on berries. They have a very short shelf life so eating them will be a priority.
This superfood can be added to any snack to boost fiber and omega 3’s along with antioxidants. Who doesn’t want that in a bowl of cereal, instantly? Consider adding to your yogurt, toasted bread, and even ice cream.
This is my go to side dish when I need that extra something to add to a meal. If I am baking dinner it can go straight into a baking dish with some EVOO. If not I can easily steam it and cleanup is a cinch. A major player in the cruciferous family, it is rich in everything, good for you and delicious. Always keep on hand.
Setting up for success with easy cheats makes up a big component of healthy eating. Now that the kids are helping themselves to snacks it’s even more important to have these easily accessible and at the front of the fridge.
I have always been a procrastinator. As a new mom, though, I took procrastination to a whole new level. Had I not procrastinated that too? I could have coined my own term for it. It’s in our nature to procrastinate, sure, but the solution may just lie in finding your particular spark.
As a new mom, I found myself often swimming in a sea of laundry and dishes, unable to keep a schedule because I was so sleepy most of the time. The flexibility required of motherhood had overrun my sense of structure and accomplishment. It felt hard to plan or complete anything. My husband would come home from work and ask me how my day was and I would stare blankly at the blur before me, grasping for something intelligible to say.
My sense of failure was magnified by the fact that I was never able to make those 8:00 a.m. mommy-and-me classes with friends. I would arrive late and disheveled at the 11:15 a.m. pool or music class and still, miss all the pre-class chatter and much needed social life. Invariably on the drive home, with first born loudly protesting in the back seat, I would find myself driving past that mom with the cute bright smile and the jogger- jogging of course, with snoozing baby in tow.
While the other moms seemed relaxed and put together, I felt a complete mess. It seemed my former punctual and organized self-was left behind in labor and delivery. My key problem? Overwhelm.
My 90+ lb pregnancy weight gain literally weighed me down even with half of it gone. Everything just felt harder. I just could not believe my loss of control and felt helpless to get out. I found my solution in an at-home workout program I had purchased for my husband – sitting on a shelf, unopened. Instead of finding time to go somewhere to workout I only needed to pop in a DVD. Yet, that too was hard.
When it came to workouts my best excuse was the shower; by the time I COULD workout, I felt too sticky and icky with baby spit up and cooking smells (and too sleepy!) to actually take that time for myself. My conundrum? The shower. Save it for AFTER the workout and I felt miserable instead of engaged. Take a shower BEFORE, well THAT’s silly – or, is it?
All I wanted to do was regain some measure of control, and of course, my body. My weight gain and fatigue were interfering with everything I had wanted parenting to be. Sure I was delighted to be a mom. It wasn’t something that came easily for me, having lost 2 babies before my first – I was grateful. I am grateful. I just didn’t feel good. And when you don’t feel good it’s hard to change things – especially since change often necessitates more discomfort. But that shower? That feels good. Aaaaaah! But was I just procrastinating again?
Change is painful, it’s not a new discovery. Neither is the fact that we are hardwired to want to avoid discomfort. It’s a survival tool.
So how do we combat that resistance to taking action? For me, it began with writing down a few things. I made a list of how I was feeling. Then I made a list of what I wanted. The last list was the hardest. I had to identify my obstacles: both real and imagined. My big one was not feeling good in my own skin.
I wanted to lose weight. I feared I had squandered my opportunity to be fit before motherhood because I was never previously into fitness. I feared failure. I wanted to be healthy for me and for that desire that burns a parent: to be around forever, for their kids.
I wanted to regain a sense of control and direction yet wanted to maintain the flexibility to meet my infant’s needs at home.
I NEEDED A SHOWER. But the sink was full of dishes, the baby was sleeping and the floor, oh the floors! I needed to get a nap or a workout or eat but felt stinky and unmotivated. Would my exercise wake the baby? What if I didn’t finish the workout in time? What if I didn’t get the shower OR a completed workout? Would that constitute failure?
For me, the shower was at the core of sparking any action. A shower can wake me or get me sleepy. The feeling I get from a shower is like no other. I truly L O V E my showers.
So I made my shower a MUST. It’s what I knew was missing the most. I self-negotiated out my hair for after workout showers only and resolved to have more ponytails. This helped me keep any pre-workout shower super brief AND enjoy myself more. It also became more of a game that involved self-nurturing. As time went by I was able to complete more workouts and stay caught up with my beloved shower. I started feeling successful. It became a game to find ways to get the workout in. I remember doing 90-minute yoga at 10:30 pm because that’s when it worked yet I enjoyed every minute of it. Soon, the shower stopped being such an obstacle. I needed fewer and fewer pre-workout showers because I was filling that need!
Once I started regaining control of the things that were important to me, and consistently activating my spark, the rest began to follow. I dropped a lot of weight and had an amazing transformation and also reached a never-before-imagined-for-me fitness level.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned is to take that darn shower. Don’t mope around with your obstacles- real or imagined. Identify them and creatively mitigate or get rid of them. That alone is action that sets you in motion towards your goal.
My other favorite tool was borrowing the Nike slogan JustDoIt. It provides me with an instant spark. If you are running circles around your goal and avoiding your target, stop yourself and “just do it”. We must not only be the nurturing parent for ourselves but also the disciplinarian.
Some other helpful techniques:
Recognize that you want change. If you consider your “problem” unchangeable, you are less likely to take action to change it. If I accepted my weight gain as something that happens to mothers my age – I almost did by the way- you are less likely to change it.
Once you’ve identified your outcome, break it down into little steps necessary to accomplish it. Set monthly, weekly and daily goals. Make those tasks on your calendar and follow through. Checking them off provides instant feedback and propels you forward.
Recognize hesitation. If you are putting off what you intended to do, be that parent for yourself. You wouldn’t dream of allowing your child to go to bed without brushing their teeth. Same. Keep yourself accountable.
Reflect: Did you get “XYZ” done today? Was it a good day? Can you do better tomorrow? Are you on track? Yay! Celebrate your own victory! You are doing it!
Tell someone about your goal. Doing this allows you to actually hear it, own it and in a way set yourself accountable.
Seek out situations that will help further your goal. This could be meetings with friends, a lecture, an app, a group of like-minded people, or a book. This also reinforces your intention and further propels you forward.
Focus on what you want instead of negative feelings. Get rid of distractions and DO things you know from your moment of clarity that you need to do. For me, my daily excuses seemed to revolve around my beloved shower. If you are like me, I say, just take that darned shower, enjoy that nice smelling soap, even if you work out right after. You will feel great and be one more step closer to accomplishing your goal. Go ahead, take that darned shower and get to the real business at hand.
I’m off to take mine.
CoachTheresaWV is a Health Advocate and Fitness Coach whose goal is to help people harness their inner voice through self care. She believes in lifestyle habits that include fitness and clean living and are sustainable for long-term health results. As a coach she helps individuals reach their specific goals by adapting health principles to their everyday life. A mom of 2, Coach Theresa does this for her children as well as a growing online and community following, helping people reach health and fitness goals one day at a time. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/trainandtransformyourlife/ or email her at CoachTheresaWV@gmail.com for a free consultation.