Balancing Healthy Eating and Busy Lives

— Written By Morgan McKnight

With school now in full swing and after school sports and activities beginning, our meal times tend to get shorter and shorter and sometimes our “on the go” choices slow us down rather than give us the burst of energy we need to keep up with our busy schedules. However no matter how busy our lives get, it is still important to make good choices for healthy eating for ourselves and our families. Grabbing a burger and fries between school and practice or snacking on chips on the way to dance may seem quick and easy but choosing and preparing healthy meals can be just as quick and easy, taste much better, and have significantly more benefits towards you and your child’s health. Brunswick County is ranked 23rd highest in the nation for its childhood obesity rate and sixty-two to sixty-nine percent of its adults are either obese or overweight. These statistics are more than enough motivation to encourage us to learn and sustain healthy behaviors.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be so hard. First and foremost: it’s all about a balance. Start slow and make small goals. Try starting with a simple goal such as, planning, preparing and cooking three dinners for the week. Another beginning goal could be to make one of your meals for the week starch free. You can also start with simple goals for your children such as packing snacks that are all less than 150 calories. Make goals that are attainable so that you are more likely to achieve them and continue working towards making simple changes that will lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Let’s go back to meal planning. This is one of the best things you can do for yourself when it comes to trying to start a healthy lifestyle change. On Saturday or Sunday (or whatever day of the week is your grocery shopping day) write out what you plan to eat – and what you will actually stick to; don’t put the healthiest meals you can think of every single night if you won’t actually eat those meals, start with just one healthy meal. Do this every day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks! This will keep you from having to think of meals and snacks “on the fly”, it will guarantee that you buy all the groceries you will need ahead of time, and it gives you more accountability to actually follow your plan.

Here are some tips to help use meal planning to create a healthier lifestyle for you and your family:

1. Plan 2-3 full days of meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack) and then just copy-cat those on the other days of the week.

2. Try to use the same ingredients for multiple meals so you use up all that you buy and nothing goes to waste. For example – buy leafy greens to go in a wrap for lunch on two days of the week and then use the rest of the greens for a salad on two nights of the week.

3. Build a recipe box of quick and easy meals and separate them into breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. Then when you are ready to plan your week you can easily find a variety of options.

4. Try looking for freezer meals that you can prepare in advance and pull out and cook when you don’t have time to grocery shop or meal plan.

5. Double recipes to make leftovers for lunch during the week or dinner another night of the week.

6. When you have a meal that you don’t follow, scratch it out and write in what you actually had so that you know not to use that one again.

7. Come up with a couple of “splurge” options: some mornings you really just don’t feel like having that smoothie for breakfast so find a healthy option (coffee and a whole wheat bagel or an egg and cheese English muffin) from a local coffee shop that you can fall back on. If you decide on these “splurge” options ahead of time, you can check out the nutritional information on most websites to make sure you are still choosing a healthier option and you won’t feel bad about not sticking to your meal plan. …just don’t make it a habit. Moderation is key!

Eating healthier meals gives us the energy we need to stay alert at work and school and also reduce the risk for a multitude of health issues. Planning our meals helps us avoid stress over trying to figure out how to eat and live healthier. A healthy lifestyle should be fun and enjoyable so try thinking of new recipes, different ways to get your kids involved, and stress-free meal planning. For more information on healthy eating and meal planning contact Morgan McKnight, or 910-253-2610.