Eating well when your life has been turned upside down can be a challenge. I’m sharing 8 ways you can get healthy meals on the table when time is limited and life is stressful.
I think it’s safe to say that in the last 2-3 weeks, our world has been turned upside down. Most of the country is on some sort of stay at home orders (and if you live in a place that isn’t, please stay at home and do your part to flatten the curve!).
Some of you have been asked to do the impossible: work full-time from home while also full-time parenting (which may involve the even harder task of home schooling).
Other’s may just be feeling thrown off by our new normal of staying home ALL.DAY.LONG.
Add to all of this the fact that grocery shopping is difficult and anxiety inducing, and it’s easy to see how putting a healthy meal on the table is a challenge.
So how do you eat healthy when your life is busy and stressful?
#1 First and foremost, adjust your expectations
Life is different right now, so stop expecting yourself to do all the things you previously did. Meals might be a little simpler and less balanced than usual. You might be eating a little more for comfort right now. That’s OK! You won’t develop a nutrient deficiency or gain 15 pounds from a few days or even a few weeks of eating differently than you usually do (even if the memes on instagram say you will).
That said, fueling your body with nourishing foods will help you feel better and you will be better able to take on everything that’s coming at you. So, do what you can to eat your fruits and veggies.
#2 stock your kitchen with the right ingredients
Putting together healthy, satisfying meals doesn’t have to be complicated; it just takes having a the right ingredients on hand. Get my guide to stocking your pantry, fridge, and freezer for mealtime success. I also include 4 easy meal ideas made entirely with those kitchen staples.
#3 keep meals simple and stick with what yo know
This is not the time to try complicated recipes with lots of different ingredients. If you’re balancing working and parenting, you certainly don’t have the time. Even if you don’t have kids, recipes that call a lot of different (or obscure) ingredients aren’t terribly efficient when you’re trying to limit trips to the grocery store. That said, if cooking or baking is your stress relief, have at it!
#4 if you have kids, get them in the kitchen
Research shows that kids involved in the cooking process are more likely to try new foods and have more diverse diets. And there is no better time than now to have them help you put meals together. Expect a mess and things to take longer, but really, why are you in a rush right now anyway?
Young toddlers can help with stirring or putting things in bowls and even pressing buttons on blenders or food processors. I highly recommend getting a kitchen helper/learning tower (this is the one we have and love) so they can be in a safe spot at counter height. This one is great for bigger kids.
For kids that like to dress up, this little apron and chef’s hat set is just too adorable.
#5 cook enough for leftovers
This is always a good idea IMO, but now seems like the best time to embrace leftovers. If you’re going to take the time to cook, why not enjoy the fruits of your labor more than once? The little bit of extra time it takes to double or triple a recipe will actually save you a lot more time later in the week. Whether it’s making enough so you have easy lunches ready during a busy work day or you need a few nights off from cooking dinner, cooking once and eating multiple times is a total life saver. Or, freeze the leftovers for another week!
#6 EMBRACE THE CROCKPOT or instant pot
While we have both, I rely on the crockpot more than the Instant Pot because the time of day I would be cooking dinner with an instant pot is also prime toddler meltdown time. So, being able to put a meal in during nap time or mid-day when the little man is up for helping me is ideal. But either way, both the crockpot and Instant Pot are huge dinner helpers because you can essentially put everything in and then walk away for a period of time.
#7 prep when you can
For those of you that know me, I’m not normally a meal prepper. I just can’t bring myself to spend hours on the weekends prepping food for the week when we could be out doing other things. But we don’t have anywhere else to be on a weekend day right now, so take advantage of any time you have to chop and roast vegetables, cook some chicken, or even put together a few meals for the week.
If that’s not your thing, use small amounts of time you have to fit in a few things here and there. Do you have 10 minutes before your next conference call and you need a brain break? Chop a few veggies or make overnight oats for the next few day’s breakfasts. Can you prep some of dinner while your kids eat lunch or during nap time? Doing something as simple as marinading your meat/fish/chicken or prepping a sauce when you have 5 minutes can take the pressure off of dinner time.
#8 be flexible
Does a recipe call for white beans but you only have black or pinto? Use what you have. Is your meal lacking in veggies because you ran out? Don’t stress, just eat what you have. Is it breakfast for dinner for the 3rd night in a row? Embrace it. Flexibility with meals in is essential right now.
Lastly, know that it’s ok to get takeout
You can’t do it all and sometimes that means cooking dinner is the things that has to go. Don’t feel any guilt about ordering some take out (or reaching for a frozen pizza). That guilt and stress may be worse for your health than any meal you might order. After all, “health” includes mental health, too. Plus, supporting local restaurants by ordering takeout while they are otherwise closed can help keep them afloat during this trying time.
Let’s chat: what are you doing during this crazy time to get meals on the table? How do you cook with your kids?