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When you are a busy parent, cooking healthy meals every day is almost impossible when you have work and a thousand other obligations to take care of. And for most us, home-cooked meals are often substituted with take-out or insta-meals that come out of a box. If only instant macaroni and orange chicken were healthy, right?
Unfortunately, convenience foods are usually packed with sugar, fat, salt, and preservatives. We don’t want our family to keep eating these things, so what can we do when we barely even have time to cook?
Here are strategies that can help your family eat healthier despite your busy schedule:
1. Ditch the sugary drinks
Swap the soda, fruit juices, and energy drinks for a pack of water or fresh fruit juice. Besides being easier on your wallet, drinking less sugary beverages helps cut a big chunk out of your family’s calorie intake.
If you want to feed your family healthy home-cooked meals but without going insane trying to cook every day, embrace the art of meal-prepping! Prepare big batches of food during your days off to re-heat or cook throughout the week. For lunches, separate each family member’s meal in a reusable container (preferably glass) that they can reheat before going to school or in the microwave at work.
On the other hand, you can prepare dinners in big containers that you can reheat (if it’s already cooked) or pop in the oven for cooking (if it’s still raw) when you get home from work. While you take some time to rest or freshen up, dinner will already be ready for when it’s time to eat.
Not sure what type of dishes you can meal-prep? Here are some great meal-prep recipes that you can try for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
3. Limit the convenience foods
A lot of busy families love convenience foods because they are super fast and easy to make. When mom or dad are too tired to cook, they pop in microwave meals for dinner. When the kids are hungry and no one else is around to feed them, they reach in the pantry for some chips or cookies. Yes, this type of food saves time and effort, but they are anything but good for your body.
It’s okay to have a ready-made pizza or some instant noodles for instances wherein there is really no time to cook, but you should limit your family’s consumption of convenience foods to at most twice a week only. If you depend on convenience foods too much, you increase the risk of obesity within your family and other chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.
4. Buy healthier food
Instead of foods that are packed with sugar, fat, and salt, choose healthier options. Load up your cart with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed meats. Choose carbohydrate sources that are made with whole grains instead of refined flours. Buy healthier snacks such as nuts and dried fruits instead of the usual chips and candy. Keep in mind that your family will eat whatever’s available to them, so you would want them to have healthy options to choose from.
5. Cook simple recipes
When you have time to cook during the weekday, choose recipes that don’t take up too much time. If you want to multi-task while cooking, take advantage of one-pot slow cooker recipes that you can leave while you do other things around the house.
6. Split the cooking responsibilities
Share the cooking responsibilities with other people in the house, such as your partner or your teenage child. In this way, the family can enjoy home-cooked meals for most of the week but without putting the burden on one person only.
To make food preparation easier between multiple cooks, place a menu plan in the kitchen so that each person knows what to cook for the day.
If you barely have time to cook for your family, don’t feel guilty. A lot of parents are on the same boat as you. But while it’s perfectly understandable why you can’t prepare home-made meals every single day, being busy should not be an excuse to feed your family junk.
With these tips, you can foster better eating habits within your family despite having a million other responsibilities. As you continue to do so, you’ll find that it becomes easier to eat healthy when you know how to manage it with the limited time you have.
Do you have meal-prep recipes to share with us? Let us know in the comments below.