My husband is not Captain Healthy. He always jokes with me when I get sick that it “must be all that exercise! Look at me! I don’t exercise and I’m as healthy as a horse!” He doesn’t consider a salad a meal and while he eats everything I cook there is a running list of things I’m “never allowed to make again” due to (in his opinion) their abundance of health and lack of tastiness.
That being said, when I got pregnant with our daughter we both agreed to eat healthier. We were concerned about all of the crap that is in processed foods and growth hormones in animal products so we began to change our habits. Gradually we shifted from frozen pizza and gallons of sweet tea to Brita pitchers and overtime, eating clean. All of the changes I’ve made have been gradual which you can read more about here.
Clean eating in simplest terms is eating food as close to nature as possible. This means cheetos are out and apples are in. Basically, if I don’t understand completely how a food came to be we most likely don’t eat it. When I do buy packaged foods I look for as few ingredients possible, low sodium and sugar content and try to just avoid them if I can.
This also resulted in a change of budget. We shop smart, buying staples in bulk at the begning of the month, stocking up on pantry items during sales and sticking to a food budget by putting a set amount in an envelope at for each month. That being said we spend slightly more on food than we used to, because it is an important priority in our lives.
In college I could feed myself for a week on less than 15 bucks. I’d buy pasta, velveeta, salsa, chips and frozen pizza and call it good. It is still amazing to me that I was able to eat this way and not make the connection between my general (lack of) health and my habits. I’ll go ahead and blame it on the fact that our brains are not fully developed til about 24 years of age and the last region to complete controls logic and reason. Or just ignorance.
I could go on and on about this; but for as much money as most of us spend on eating out, new clothes we probably don’t need, newer model cars etc we are so afraid to spend more on “healthy” foods. We only have one body for our whole lives. So rather than spend our money on what we put on it we spend more on what goes in it. Especially for the sake of our daughter.
Now I’m no short order cook around here but I manage to please a “non-health enthusiast” husband, a picky 2 year old and myself with the same meal. This comes up a lot with clients so I thought I would share how I make that happen.
First of all I am always on the lookout for new recipes to throw in rotation. I love “Clean Eating” magazine as each issue is full of great ideas. My resources tab has some great cookbooks I routinely utilize and a lot of meals I simply make up based on what we have in the house. My favorite time to cook is the end of the month and food budget because it forces me to be creative with what we have.
We keep a pantry stocked with good clean eating options. Ideally of course, all of our food would come from the farmers market or whole foods-ish type joint but that is more than we are willing or able to spend on a regular basis. So our food staples tend to include fish, chicken breast, raw almonds, whole wheat pasta, canned tomatoes, low sodium broth, sea salt, cracked pepper, quinoa, oatmeal, lots of different kinds of beans including garbanzo for hummus, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, rice or soy milk (we buy cases), Ezekiel bread, mounds of frozen vegetables, brown rice, natural nut butters, whole grain tortillas or wraps, garlic and lots and lots of spices.
In addition to these items I go to the store about once a week to stock up on produce for the week. We have a big bowl in the middle of the kitchen table full of fruit for snacks, breakfast on the go or to add to a meal. I also almost always buy lots of spinach and Greek yogurt (and a few other diary items).
Now to make a meal that please the 3 of us means I often serve different meals to each person- but it is the manner in which I serve them not the content that changes. Last night I made a chicken pizziola (Chicken breast roasted with turkey pepperoni and mozzarella cheese).
My husband’s meal was the largest chicken breast had more pepperoni and cheese and was served with a heaping helping of whole grain pasta and homemade marinara (leftover from a meal earlier in the week).
My daughter had some of our chicken chopped into smaller pieces with some pasta and cheese. (“Chicken! Pasa! Cheeeese!”)
I had a small portion of whole grain pasta with a heaping serving of raw spinach and a small portion of chicken and sauce. Making spinach the center of my meal.
Three different meals for three different tastes and one meal prepared in the kitchen.
That’s just one example of how I make this work for all of us. I always serve Lola whatever I’m making for all of us but there are times that what we are eating is completely unappealing to her. So while I never make a big deal about what she’s eating or not, if she is entirely disinterested in dinner I give her the options of brown rice or whole wheat pasta (there is almost always some prepared in the fridge) with “chicken nuggets” which I purchase meat free and soy free from the health market. They are healthy, tasty and she likes them.
A typical lunch at my house for just Lola and I is often a salad or wrap for me, and a “deconstructed” version for Lola. I tend to get on kicks where I eat a lot of the same things. Recently my favorite lunch has been raw spinach with fat free feta (I prefer it), kalamata olives and tomatoes with EVOO-balsamic homemade dressing. I eat this alone as a salad or as a wrap. Lola laughs at “Mommy eating leaves!” She’s tried spinach and so far it’s not her thing. So she has some feta, tomatoes, olives, toast and “chicken nuggets.”
My husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He’d much rather have a steak than a brownie so when it comes to dessert he’s out. Lola and I, on the other hand love dessert. I swear I didn’t get a sweet tooth til I got pregnant but man has it stayed with me. But since we have healthy desserts they are a frequent indulgence for my girl and I.
My all time favorite (and Lola’s!) is “Banana ice cream” which is frozen bananas and rice milk (just enough to get the right consistancy) pureed together. That’s it! Sometimes I add dark chocolate chips (a few) or a little peanut butter. In the morning when Lola requests “Juice” I thin it out like a shake and after I pour hers I add protein powder to the mix and make myself a protein shake.
Tiny tweaks for everyone’s nutritional needs and taste wants.
Bananas and spinach are also go-tos as they never spoil. When my spinach looks like it needs to be used up and I haven’t eaten as much raw as I’d hoped I cook it down with garlic and EVOO and serve it as a dinner side. Bananas sit on the table until they look like they are about to turn and then they get sliced up and put in the freezer for me and Lola. My husband likes to grab one to eat in the car on the way to work when he doesn’t have time for breakfast. (Fruits ARE convenience foods! Grab one instead of a 100 calorie pack and you WILL notice the difference in how your body feels -less likely hungry 20 minutes later and more satisfied).
For Lola and me both I am always prepared to eat. If we leave the house you can be certain I have some kind of snack item in my purse. I keep a protein bar in my glove box for “emergencies” (in the case emergency = I’m hungry and taco bell is gross), and almost always have a bag of raw almonds and an apple in my bag. We all carry water bottles everywhere we go and I’m sure save A LOT of money from what we used to spend routinely on soda/tea etc.
This is probably one of my less exciting posts. There are more exciting things than what I had for breakfast. But I’m asked about this all the time and I wanted to give some examples of how I manage to eat clean with a family.
In the end it boils down the same as everything else; If it’s important to you—you will find a way, and if not you will find an excuse.
We also eat out from time to time, I still make my famous (completely unhealthy) and delicious mac n cheese with bacon and we allow Lola some “kid snacks.” As a family we eat healthy most of the time and don’t make a big deal when we don’t. This is the kind of example we want to set for our daughter as well as the kind of lifestyle we want to lead.
To your family’s health!
P.S. Per Janice’s request here are a few of our favorite meals.
Garlicky Quinoa and Garbanzo Beans (turns out quinoa is one of Lolas most favorite foods, she requests it for breakfast)
Curried Vegetables -Jamal’s favorite meal.
Shrimp and Grits -super quick and easy, I usually serve w/ brown rice instead of grits
Pasta Bake w/Broccoli and Beans A crowd pleaser for Lo and Jamal
Jerk Chicken -Jamal usually makes this, but this is a similar recipe to his
Protein bars -Jamal likes to have these at breakfast, and take to work to keep him full through the day
There’s a good start, hopefully with a little something to please everyone. Most of what I cook I don’t use a recipe for, I’m just mindful of using good, whole ingredients. i.e. Quesadillas? Sure! Heavy on veggies w/ grilled chicken breast and light on cheese for me. Once you get in the hang of it (and stock your house with good options) it’s easy!