oatmeal and teaI recently saw an image that said, “I didn’t have Coronavirus on my 2020 vision board.” I laughed to myself and then thought about how much has changed in recent months, especially when it comes to our nutrition. Grocery trips and meal times look different. Some good, some bad, but definitely different. 

If you typically plan out your weekly meals and swing by to pick-up your curbside groceries or eat most of your meals out at restaurants, the last few weeks have likely changed your routine quite a bit. Grocery shopping is harder both online and in-person. Restaurant meals are now take-out. And for many families, EVERYONE is eating all of their meals at home (hello, dishes). 

I’ve personally felt a good amount of stress and anxiety over meals as providing healthy food for my family is very important to me. Once I made a few shifts in the way we shop and cook, it helped me better manage this stress. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with cooking healthy meals and simply getting everyone to eat what you’re cooking, here are my top tips for building a healthy meal the whole family will enjoy:

  1. Skip meal planning if this stresses you out and instead focus on buying whole, minimally processed foods.
  2. Grocery shop for the following foods and buy what your family enjoys. This may not be the ideal time to yogurt parfaitexperiment with new foods especially if you have picky eaters at home:
    • Lean protein such as chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt, tempeh, beans, and legumes.
    • Healthy fats such as avocado and avocado oil, olive oil, nuts, nut butter, walnut oil, flax, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and olives.
    • Smart carbs such as beans, lentils, steel-cut or old-fashioned oats, quinoa, whole grain rice, millet, potatoes, corn, fruit, and whole/sprouted grain bagels, breads, English muffins, pastas, and wraps.
    • Veggies – eat the rainbow! Anything goes. 
  3. When it comes to cooking a meal or snack do your best to include food from each of the following categories. This will help you feel more satisfied with your meals! If you can’t get something from the grocery store, move on. This is temporary. 
    • Lean protein
    • Healthy Fats
    • Smart Carbs
    • Veggies
  4. If fresh foods aren’t available opt for frozen or canned foods. Read the labels so you know what you’re buying (many online ordering sites provide the label too):  
    • Lean protein such as frozen chicken breasts (cooked or not). Frozen turkey, beef, or veggie burgers. Canned tuna, salmon, beans, lentils, and more.
    • Healthy Fats: Frozen avocado for smoothies or even refrigerated guacamole.  
    • Smart Carbs: Frozen rice, quinoa, frozen potatoes (look for non-fried varieties), frozen corn, refrigerated pasta, frozen or canned fruit.
    • Frozen or canned veggies. Even pickled vegetables or sauerkraut. 
  5. Simplify mealtime with these quick ideas:female chopping vegetables“Snack” tray: chop up food and serve it charcuterie style. Everyone can pick the foods they want to eat and make their own snack/meal.
    • Soup: toss leftover protein, grain, and veggies into your favorite soup broth with a few seasonings and you’re set. I like to saute carrots, onion, and celery as a base.  
    • Crockpot/Instapot meals are great if you’re working all day, caring for kids, and somehow supposed to get dinner on the table. Cook in bulk and freeze leftovers or save them for the next meal.
    • Build a bowl: Cook up your favorite protein, smart carbs, and veggies and let everyone build their own bowl “Chipotle” style. This way, if you want cauliflower rice and the rest of the family wants regular rice, it’s a win-win. You might cook more one night, but that’s less cooking later in the week.
    • Fire up the grill: toss on your favorite meat and veggies and grill more than you need so you can freeze leftovers, add them to soups, build-a-bowl, snack trays, and more.
    • Individual items: Instead of feeling overwhelmed with complex recipes, steam veggies and toss with salt and olive oil, cook a protein, and serve it with a side of smart carbs.
    • Sheet pan dinners: Place everything in the oven on one sheet pan and bake. You may need to remove some items earlier than others if they take less time to cook. 
    • Hash: Chop and saute potatoes, ground meat or beans, and any vegetables you have on hand with your favorite spices. That’s it!
    • Breakfast for dinner; dinner for breakfast; lunch for breakfast, you name it. It’s pretty common to find us using dinner leftovers the next day during breakfast and lunch.  
  6. Get the family involved and especially your kids! Last week our 18-month old helped ‘sprinkle’ garlic powder on the broccoli. Find a task your kids will enjoy and they might be more willing to try new foods.
  7. Ask family members to pick out a fruit or vegetable for the week from the store or even your refrigerator before mealtime. Kids are more likely to try or even eat a vegetable if they had a say in the decision.
  8. Ditch perfection. Every meal doesn’t need to be perfect to provide healthy meals for the entire family. 

Maybe when this is all over, we can say our families enjoyed more meals together, found a new favorite dinner, became better cooks, or even simplified grocery shopping and meal planning. 

About Coach Ashley:

I help postpartum moms improve their confidence, energy, and strength through sustainable fitness and nutrition. I also helps pregnant women manage weight gain, protect their core and pelvic floor, and prepare for child birth and the demands of motherhood. Let’s connect and work towards your goals together! 

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