Healthy Eating for Busy Parents

When you’re always on the go - rushing around all day, balancing looking after children with a busy job - it can be so easy to forget to eat, or to snack on foods that you know aren’t good for you. At the end of a long day, when you have little energy or inspiration left, it be hard to make a proper, nutritious healthy tea. All this can make you feel constantly tired all the time and can often lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone! What you eat has a huge impact on the way you feel, and by making some simple, easily achievable changes to your diet, you can really improve your health and wellbeing as well as ensuring you have plenty of energy throughout the day.

 

  • Eat regularly: Make sure you eat 3 good meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) a day and try not to snack. If you really need to snack have a handful of nuts, carrot / cucumber sticks with houmous or oatcakes with a small bit of cheese, rather than reaching for the biscuit tin. This will help stabilise your blood sugar levels throughout the day, thereby keeping your energy levels up and reducing cravings for sugary snacks.
  • Don’t skip breakfast:Some people skip breakfast because they don’t have time in the mornings, or think it will help them lose weight. But a healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and stimulate metabolism. Try to have a good sized breakfast which includes protein (eggs, yogurt, nuts and seeds) as well as wholegrain cereals (porridge and homemade muesli). Try to avoid highly-processed, packaged cereals and ‘healthy’ cereal bars which are often high in sugars and processed carbohydrates.
  • Be organised: Write out a meal plan for the week and use this as the basis of your weekly shop - this way all you need is already shopped for and available to you at your fingertips. There are some great websites and apps to help you with this, try: http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/food/weekly-meal-planner or http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/meal-planner-recipe-finder.aspx .
  • Stay hydrated: Make sure you have 8 glasses of water or fluids at day. Teas (especially herbal teas), diluted fresh juices and soups all count too. Be sure to carry a water bottle with you when on the go and remember to drink it. Often our bodies will send signals to our brain that we need more water - these can often be in the form of headaches, hunger cues and lack of energy.
  • Eat your veggies: It’s recommended that you eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day - it’s easier than it sounds. Try to eat at least 3 types of vegetables at both lunch and supper, and also for snacks (e.g. carrot, cucumber and celery sticks). Homemade soups and smoothies are a great way to increase your vegetable intake, or try the tomato & veggies sauce further on in this leaflet. Also ensure you have a variety of vegetables – a rainbow of colours - especially spinach, kale, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes and red peppers.
  • Reduce processed foods and drinks high in refined sugars and fats:Especially sugary snacks and drinks (chocolate, sweets, ice cream, cakes, biscuits, pastries and fizzy sugary drinks), takeaways and ready meals (which are highly processed and usually contain large amounts of hidden sugars, refined fats, salt and artificial additives), and fatty foods (crisps, chips and fried foods). These foods are full of empty calories, which will disrupt blood sugar balance, sap energy levels and lead to sugar cravings and weight gain.
  • Swap white for brown:Next time you are at the supermarket, instead of buying white bread, pasta and rice, try the wholegrain versions instead, such as granary/whole grain bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice. Wholegrain foods are great for sustained energy production and blood sugar balance, they also help to keep your gut healthy too.

 

Quick and Easy Recipes for Busy Parents

 

Power Muesli (makes a large batch, takes 10 mins)

Far better than the shop bought muesli– both in taste and health wise!

500g wheat free muesli base or jumbo oats

2 tablespoons flaxseeds

100g mixed nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts) roughly chopped

50g mixture of dried fruits eg apple, berries, raisins or sultanas

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

50g coconut flakes or desiccated coconut

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon ground ginger

 

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Serve with cold milk or yogurt (cow’s milk or dairy alternative).
  3. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.

Mixed bean and tuna salad (serves 2, takes 5 mins)

1 can of mixed bean salad (Napolina do a great one)

2  medium sized tomatoes, chopped

1 can of tuna in spring water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 spring onion, finely chopped

Dessert spoon of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Large handful of young spinach, washed and dried

Pepper to taste

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and then serve.
  2. Can be kept in fridge for up to 2 days.

Tomato and veggie sauce

This versatile sauce can be used in many ways – as a pasta sauce, pizza base, baked potato filling, soup (just add more stock) or poured over chicken, fish, or tofu etc. It is full of nutrient packed vegetables of all different varieties and colours. Make a huge pot of it to freeze in batches once it has cooled.

 

2 tbsps. mild olive oil

Half a small cauliflower (chopped)

2 medium onions (diced)

1 large pinch dried oregano or mixed herbs

1 small leek (chopped)

2 x 400 g tinned plum tomatoes

Small head of broccoli (chopped)

1 large carton of passata

2 red peppers, chopped

200mls vegetable stock

2 courgettes (sliced)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 carrots (sliced)

 

 

  1. Chop/slice all vegetables to roughly the same size (1½ cm thick)
  2. Heat a large saucepan (big enough to hold all the ingredients) over a medium heat.
  3. Pour in the olive oil and then add the onions, leek, peppers, courgettes, carrots and herbs.
  4. Cook the whole lot slowly for about 10 minutes with the lid on, until all the vegetables are soft.
  5. Add the tomatoes and passata, and 200ml of vegetable stock and pepper to the vegetables.
  6. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
  7. If required, blitz with a hand-held blender until smooth (allow the sauce to cool slightly beforehand) otherwise leave as is. Have a taste and season with some salt or more pepper if needed.

 

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