By Mary Martin, PhD
People tell me I’m “lucky” to be 46 and fit and healthy, as if I don’t work fairly (and by fairly I mean extremely) hard at maintaining my health and fitness. Trust me when I say that luck isn’t part of the equation. The good news is that the easier/less painful part is eating well. I’m a person who eats at a restaurant maybe twice a month. I eat well, at home, almost every day.
Before you get all: I could never do that, I’m stressed just thinking about it, I don’t have the time, it’s expensive, I’d have no idea where to begin, do you have any idea what my life is like, woman? let me tell you that it wasn’t always this way for me. When I went back to working (from the home) when my daughter was 18 months old, I had to shift my way of thinking about eating, and make eating well (for the husband and me) a priority. It was a decision. And then I had to change the way I was doing things. I had to create systems for shopping, storage, preparation and cooking, that allowed me to work, raise a child, clean the house, attend to the greyhound and the cat, and work out, without getting as frazzled and resentful as I was getting. Fortunately, there are oodles of moms who came before me who have done most of the heavy lifting. All I had to do was find the tips–among their tips–that worked best for me.
Here are my Top 5 Tips for Making Eating Well Easy/Easier:
- Buy in bulk (less expensive, less waste) and then store your grains, flours, cereals, nuts/seeds and legumes in jars that other items came in (see photo). Label them, people! Unless you like playing Twenty Questions when you ask someone to get you the quinoa, label it. The steel cut oats container with a Q on the lid in permanent market holds the quinoa. That’s how involved I get with my system.
- Time fold. In less than the time it takes to watch an entire episode of Dexter after the kids are in bed on a Sunday night, you could also . . . cook batches of three grains and one of beans, to be used for the week. This way, you have a grain and a legume ready to go, and all you have to do is toss in some fresh veggies OR toss the grain and legumes onto a bunch of greens. Also, rinsing and soaking beans and nuts on the counter for use the following day takes all of sixty seconds of effort. I make cheeses, milks, butters and creams from cashews and almonds, and prep time for the basic ones is under 10 minutes. Inexpensive, no packaging, and I know exactly what’s in them (just a handful of ingredients). As for the beans, I “hide” them (The Child isn’t a fan) in pancakes, cookie dough, cheese dips, and other unexpected places.
- Always have frozen fruit and greens in the freezer, including ripe bananas (peel them first). It’s relatively inexpensive to do this, the food doesn’t go bad, and it makes for an easy meal (toss into blender with some juice or water, and don’t forget the greens!).
- Redefine meals. Ditch the idea that certain foods are breakfast foods and therefore cannot be eaten after 11:59am. Similarly alter your thinking about dinner. Brown rice for breakfast, anyone? (I make it into a rice pudding.) Steel cut oats for lunch or dinner? Cannellini bean pancakes, any time of day? Done!
- Trends are your friends. If your child will always eat peanut butter and celery, always have it on hand. Whatever a family member is favoring (as long as it’s healthy), keep it around for the times you put mashed cauliflower in front of them and they scoff at it. Don’t fight things that you know work, and don’t start a battle over a single meal. As far as I know, no one ever died from healthy food-repetition.
I hope you find some of these helpful. Feel free to ask questions or chime in about your favorite tips!
Mary Martin, PhD has been writing and editing nonfiction books for 25 years. She lives in South Florida with her husband, their daughter, one retired racing greyhound and one obnoxious cat. Her questionable work-life balance is achieved through constant exercise and meditation. She is the less likable of the Martin sisters.