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Making Healthy Meals as a Working Parent

>> Friday, September 14, 2012

My patients often tell me that having to find time to cook for their family makes it harder to eat well themselves.  I polled some of my friends who are working moms to get some real life tips, and I got an especially awesome response with lots of great ideas from my good friend Dr Ronagh Hatcher, a family physician in Calgary who has two little ones at home.  Here's what she had to say!  

#1 - Be organized.   It takes time to get there but the more you can plan ahead the healthier you will eat.  As we have food alergies/intolerances in our family, we don't have a lot of options so we have to be organized.  Every Sunday, we plan out our meals for the week; from there, we develop a grocery list.  That way, every day I know what we are having for dinner, and most days we already have everything we need.  You will also find it saves you money!!

#2 - Make freezer meals.   Once a week I try to make triple or more of a meal that freezes well.  We have it for dinner that night, then store the unused portions for those days when you won't have time to cook.  After a few weeks I end up with a great selection in the freezer.  This is a huge timesaver as it means I don't have to cook a few nights a week.  Things I find that freeze well are spaghetti sauce, pulled pork, lasagna, curries, chicken taco meat, shepards pie, turkey meatballs, chili...  Just to name a few!  Homemade muffins and soups also freeze well for healthy lunch/snack options.  I invested in some quality Pyrex glass storage wear with plastic lids...  They can go straight from the freezer to the microwave or oven.  

Dr Sue's comment:  I'm secretly a bit envious of Ronagh's family and all the great food they get to eat.  Ronagh was my roommate years ago in med school, and I LOVED it when she cooked for me!

#3 - Get aquainted with a slow cooker - this is key for working parents!!!! It means you can take 5-10 minutes in the morning to throw stuff in your slow cooker, turn it on, and presto...  dinner is done when you get home.  I recommend buying a large volume one because these meals are usually good for leftovers, or for 'freezer meals'.  I have a recipe book that does not require you brown the meat first, which is also a big time saver.  

#4 - Make ahead healthy lunch options.  There are certain lunches that I can eat for days in a row and never get sick of them.  It is worth making the effort one day to have the convenience for the next three!  Things I like to do this with are homemade soups, like roasted butternut squash, or salads like couscous or quinoa ones that keep well.  Some pre made options I really like are 'Imagine Organic Creamy Tomato' and Costco quinoa salad.  

Dr Sue:  Nutritional info for these foods is in the links - just click on them! Remember to portion control. :)

#5 - Shop around for healthier pre made food options for when you just dont have the time or energy...  here's a few ideas to get you started:

  • Superstore blue menu has some great flax chicken strips
  • Buy Costco falafels, heat in a pan and serve with rice and salad
  • Cooked whole chicken -  chop and sauté with onions and tomato sauce for a quick pasta sauce, or serve over salad for a fresh lighter meal.  The possibilities are endless here.  
  • If you need a pizza fix...  Delicio harvest wheat thin crust pizza is a MUCH healthier opinion than takeout
  • local premade food companies...  I use one called 'Green Figs and Yams' - for $16 dollars a dish you can buy healthy freezer ready entrees for 3-4 people.  

#6 - If you don't know how to cook, learn!   Some great healthy cookbooks are the Looney spoons/Crazy Plates ones.   They have tons of healthy yet tasty recipes, complete with nutritional information. 

Dr Sue's comment - I use these recipe books too - I love them so much that I asked for (and received) permission from the authors to post the odd recipe from their collection

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2012

Follow me on Twitter for daily tips! @drsuepedersen


Susan September 15, 2012 at 4:23 PM  

As a busy working mom who really doesn't enjoy cooking, I appreciate the tips and pratical suggestions. You have inspired me to dust off the slow cooker to make my favorite ham and split pea soup. Now to just find more room in the freezer.


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