Every spring something draws me to want to get out in the crisp air and just breathe, exercise, and enjoy nature. The ground is cold, the soil is wet, the grass is green, and flowers are poking up everywhere. This year is no different. In fact, the draw is a bit more intense. I'm not quite pre-baby yet... I need to get rid of 8 pounds. Ugh. And I'm not good at diets. Chocolate is just too important to me. I cannot live without its pure and perfect, rich and dark deliciousness.
So, since I won't commit to a diet, I will go with this generalization: I just want to take better care of my body.
One of our biggest challenges as moms is eating the right foods at the right times, and preparing balanced meals for ourselves and our families on a regular basis. We are either running out of the house too fast to pack something, or so hungry by the time we've fed the kids, that we grab the first thing we see regardless of what it is. I find myself cooking separate meals for all four of us, which can cause a bit of a messy situation. By the time I've made my kiddos mac 'n cheese, I'm so hungry myself that I scarf a few spoonfuls of his noodles, eat a pickle from the fridge, a piece of bread or a tortilla with cheese, and a handful of chips. That's not the greatest meal, obviously.
Anyway, I have found the ANSWER. Seriously. I've found the answer, and it's not hiring a personal chef or moving into the deli aisle of Whole Foods. It all comes down to two little words. Plan Ahead. Now, if I knew how to guarantee the time to plan ahead each week, I'd be eating a perfect diet. It's not happening, but I'm working on it.
Here are my favorite tips for planning ahead. I'm going to be working on these for next few weeks. Now, I can't take credit for all of them. I found many of them HERE, on my favorite nutrition blog.
1. Wash and prep food after your weekly grocery or farmers market trip. Don't just throw everything in the fridge when you get home from the store. Wash and dry the lettuce for an easy salad later. Wash, peel and chop carrots, celery, bell peppers, etc. into snack size pieces and store in airtight containers in the fridge. (Here are some of mine for this week)
2. Take the prep a step further and divide veggies and dip, trail mix, pretzels, and cheese into snack size baggies or containers for easy lunch packing.
3. Have a cooking night once a week. Make a batch of rice or quinoa to use in stir frys or salads, cook up a pot of bean or lentil soup with fresh vegetables, make some low sugar blueberry or banana muffins, or some pumpkin pancakes for easy breakfasts. Add a couple good protein items as well, such as hard boiled eggs, tuna salad, or chicken breasts. If you make your own gluten free bread like I do, add this to the list as well.
4. Keep the pantry, fridge, and freezer stocked. Things like pasta sauce, canned beans, chicken broth, and tuna are lifesavers when you only have a half an hour to make dinner. Make sure to have some good crackers or tortilla chips, peanut butter, salsa, and salad dressing as well. Frozen chicken breasts can be tossed in microwave steam bags and are ready in minutes for a variety of recipes.
5. Post a tentative meal plan on the refrigerator. It doesn't have to be a list of every meal, but do include lunch and snack ideas so that when you are starving and brain dead, you'll grab the tuna salad and lettuce wraps rather than the crusts you cut off your kids grilled cheese sandwich.
6. Have a no-fail recipe collection. Keep a little binder or recipe card holder in your kitchen with your favorite no frills, quick, and easy recipes. Make sure to flag the ones that are easily made out of pantry ingredients!
Here is one of my favorites:
Chicken Tortilla Soup
One medium onion
1-2 Cloves of Garlic
One box of Trader Joes Chicken Broth
One can of diced tomatoes with green chiles added
One can of Trader Joes Chicken Breasts in Broth
Dried Cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, if desired
Sour cream, cheese, and avocado for topping
Pour a little olive oil in your soup pot and set to medium heat. Chop and drop the garlic and onion, and saute until softened. Add broth, tomatoes, cilantro, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and add canned chicken. Return to a simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and serve over tortilla chips, topped with cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Enjoy!
Link to my menu plan for the week (yes, I actually type these things up, and yes, I am a bit crazy)