Posted: Mar 18, 2015
This week's post comes from Registered Dietitian Laurel LeConte.
p.s. Today is National Dietitians Day in Canada! Celebrate with some veggies :)
It’s funny how life experience broadens your perspective. As a registered dietitian (RD), I’ve provided out-patient counselling in a diabetes clinic for over nine years. Looking back, I can see how the advice I provide to patients—and the way that I relate to them—has changed dramatically over the years.
I’ll be the first to admit that, in the past, I would sometimes feel a little judgemental towards my patients. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that some people would “forget” to eat breakfast, or “skip” lunch, or choose to make hot dogs or Kraft dinner for their kids’ dinner. Now that I’ve added two young children to the mix of my own life, however, I totally understand that sometimes people are just “surviving.” For many people, nutrition and healthy cooking simply don’t make the “to‑do” list in their overscheduled lives.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Regardless of how hectic our lives are, we can still choose to devote some time and energy to creating healthy meals (and a positive food environment) in our homes. We make time for what’s important to us—so long as it’s doable. And yes, healthy cooking is doable, even in our busy lives. Let me share a few tips that have helped me to continue to make healthy eating at home a reality for me and my family.
1. Plan ahead
This one is nothing new. If you want to eat well, you need a little organization. I suggest sitting down once per week and jotting down a weekly menu. Personally, I do this on the day the grocery flyers come out so I can plan the menu around what’s on sale. I make a grocery list based on the meals I plan to make that week, then I do one main grocery shopping trip per week. (Sometimes I grocery shop on my lunch hour; I stow a cooler with ice packs in my trunk to keep things cool until I get home. The alternative is bringing my children to the grocery store with me, which is a recipe for disaster.)
2. Use the appliances you already have
I’ve come to realize that most people already own a slow cooker—they just don’t use it. Slow cookers (and other time-saving kitchen devices like rice cookers, pressure cookers, etcetera) can be essential for a time-pressed cook. Once you dust off your slow cooker, treat yourself to a new cookbook or go online for literally thousands of recipes. Many slow cooker recipes are as simple as dumping in a few ingredients before leaving for work, then coming home to a warm, fragrant, delicious, and inexpensive home-cooked meal. Likewise, the freezer and deep freeze are underutilized (and underappreciated!) home appliances. When you do have time to cook a great meal, make multiples of the same recipe and freeze portions for later use. I’ve found that making larger quantities of recipes for future meals takes only a few extra minutes—and saves a ton of time later on. Your future self will thank you.
3. Be boring
If there’s something that your family really likes, and that’s reasonably easy and nutritious to make, then there is no shame in serving it on continuous repeat. In our house, my homemade spaghetti sauce chockablock—filled with hidden vegetables and served over a moderate portion of whole grain noodles with a side of steamed broccoli—is on the menu once per week, 52 weeks per year. We like it so much that we never get tired of it.
Some people—women in particular and myself included—seem to have a disease called “control freakism.” We try to do it all, and we get resentful when our spouses and/or kids and/or family pets are not helping enough. If you want help, you need to ask for it—and you need to delegate as necessary. In my case, I need to start “trusting” my husband to execute the occasional grocery list on his own, and I also need to start enlisting the help of my children more as they get older. My daughter, who is four, is already capable of arranging chopped raw vegetables on a plate, scooping up the vegetable trimmings for the composter, and sweeping the floor after we prepare dinner together.
5. Take shortcuts
Along with the pressure we put on ourselves to “do better” in the cooking and eating department, there also seems to be the impression that, in order to do it “right,” we have to be culinary superstars. This simply isn’t so. Buy the bagged salad. Use the pre-chopped and pre-washed squash. Toss in the “steam-in-bag” veggies to round out your meal. Although these options can cost a little more, they can also help you keep your sanity—and ensure a balanced meal after a long day’s work.
I’ll be the first to admit that the above tips made easier by having a spouse who’s home on evenings and weekends. It also helps that I’m a dietitian who has a real interest in food and cooking. But regardless of your situation, prioritizing healthier eating is doable for everyone—at least on most days, which is what I consider a win.
One of my favorite parts of being a dietitian is sharing recipes and talking about cooking with patients, friends, and my community. I’ve decided to use social media as an extension of this passion by documenting my own “real world” cooking and food preparation. Please join me in my journey by following me on Instagram at @lecontelaurel