Healthy Eating Tips for Busy Families
Sixteen years ago, Meagan Henao worked in fashion merchandising, but she was miserable, stressed, and unhealthy. So she quit her job to overhaul her life. Now, Meagan is a Certified Prenatal & Family Health Coach with a focus on the nutritional needs of pregnant women and new moms. With three children of her own (ages seven, four, and 20 months), Meagan knows firsthand how hard it is to prepare healthy meals when you’re two working parents. Here, she shares tips to help busy families make small changes that can have a big impact on your health—without breaking your budget.
Go meatless for a meal. (Or two.)
When Meagan was pregnant with her first child, she and her partner decided to start buying organic meat and vegetables whenever possible. But since organic meat costs a lot more than conventional meat, they ended up opting to just eat less meat altogether. “Now we average about three to four meatless meals a week,” says Meagan.
Prep ingredients, not meals.
Traditional ideas about meal prep may not be realistic for today’s busy families, so Meagan recommends preparing simple ingredients that can be mixed and matched over the course of a week. Double the amount of rice or vegetables you cook. Roast a whole chicken on the weekend to use in soups and sandwiches (or buy a prepared rotisserie chicken). Keep staples in your house like eggs and frozen vegetables for quick healthy meals. If your budget allows, buy pre-cut vegetables to save time. “The healthy boxed food is expensive,” says Meagan. “So if you can cook meals that your family enjoys, you’ll end up saving a lot of money.” Check out three of her favorite slow-cooker recipes here!
Read the fine print.
Grocery stores are packed with products that promise convenience and simplicity, but sometimes they come with unwanted additives or chemicals. Meagan’s big tip: “Choose items with the smallest list of ingredients possible. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, or can’t pronounce it, that’s a red flag.”
Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.
Meagan recommends calling in your support team—whether that’s your own family or store services—and enlisting their aid in whatever ways you can. Older children can help put groceries away, set the table, and load the dishwasher. Check out new services that many grocery stores offer that let you order groceries ahead of time online and get curb-side pickup. “We tend to glorify busyness in our culture,” says Meagan. “But it’s not possible to do it all, so give yourself grace. And delegate!”
Make time to eat together.
As a nutrition coach, Meagan knows that food is a source of cultural and social bonding. So while she enjoys helping new moms and their families eat healthier meals, the most important thing she recommends is to make time to come together as a family around food, however and whenever you can. “My kids don’t always talk to me,” she says. “But as soon as we sit down to eat, they do!” Meagan encourages families to start early by bringing babies to the table so they’re part of the food ritual early on. From learning conversation patterns to sharing family stories (and favorite dishes), coming together around food can bring families together. Family schedules differ from day-to-day and week-to-week, so choose a meal or a time that works for you—whether that’s breakfast on the weekends, a weeknight supper, or late night post-game take-out.