Take Care of the Kids,
Take Care of Yourself, Too
By Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
When my kids were small, there were times when I’d be so busy caring for them that I couldn’t find time to take care of myself. On days like that, lunch might have been made up of a few bites of cold macaroni and cheese that didn’t get finished or some pizza crusts and maybe a swallow of apple juice from a sippy cup.
Finding the time and energy to cook a meal is really tough when you’ve got little ones – takeout and frozen convenience items look mighty tempting, and when you’re catering to your kids likes and dislikes, your diet might not be as well-balanced as it should be. Sitting down to eat a meal in peace is a luxury, so that often falls by the wayside – only to be replaced by frequent snacking and grazing on whatever is nearby, including scraps left on the high chair tray. Some busy moms rely on frequent sugar shots throughout the day to fight fatigue – a practice that usually backfires. Blood sugar spikes are often followed by a crash, and the cycle starts all over again.
One thing that worked really well for me was to make a smoothie in the morning for breakfast. It takes only a minute or two to whip up some milk, protein powder and fresh or frozen fruit in the blender, and it was something I could sip on easily while I fed the kids—and a lot more satisfying that sticky scraps of toaster waffles.
When you do have time to cook, always make extra. As long as you’re going to the trouble, it’s great to have leftovers to freeze for another meal, or to refrigerate for lunch the next day. If you don’t have a slow cooker, think about getting one. You can get a soup or stew, or even a whole chicken, started in the morning – and have a delicious dinner waiting for you at the end of the day.
Frozen veggies and fruits, and healthy canned foods like beans or tuna are lifesavers. The fruits can go into your smoothie, or thawed and spooned over some yogurt or cottage cheese. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, and you can add them to convenience items like canned soups, Chinese take out, or even macaroni and cheese to make them healthier. Canned beans with their liquid make a great base for a quick soup, or can be used as added protein in a tossed salad for a quick, complete meal.
If your kids are school-aged, you probably do your best to pack healthy snacks and lunches. Why not do the same for yourself? Keep your fridge stocked with sticks of string cheese, yogurt, cans of tomato juice, cut up veggies, fruits and nonfat milk, and stock your pantry with healthy cereals, protein bars and whole grain crackers so you always have something quick and easy to grab. It’s your best defense against eating badly when you’re tired and hungry.
Get your kids involved in the kitchen, too. Not only does it make the workload lighter, it's a great way to spend time together, and the perfect time to talk with them about healthy, good food.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.