Life can get hectic, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your family’s health and wellness. With a bit of planning and some smart hacks, you can ensure that you and your family are getting the nutrition you need to thrive, even when you’re short on time.
I’m going to share with you five nutrition hacks for busy families that will help you maximize your health in minimum time. Here are some easy and fun ways to prioritize healthy eating while juggling your busy schedule.
1. Meal prep like a pro
Meal prepping does not mean you have to spend your whole Sunday chopping, cooking, and prepping food for the week—unless you really want to.
Meal prep is an absolute game-changer when it comes to saving time in the kitchen. It might seem daunting at first, but trust me, once you get into the habit of planning and prepping your meals, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.
Start by dedicating 15 minutes per week to just looking at the week ahead and writing out what’s plausible for dinner. Next, make your meals x 2.
Grill some extra chicken breasts, cook a bigger batch of quinoa, roast some more veggies, and you’ll have a fridge or freezer full of healthy meals ready to go. Imagine coming home after a long day and not having to worry about cooking. Simply grab one of your pre-prepped meals, heat it up, and enjoy a nutritious and delicious dinner.
2. Keep healthy snacks on hand
Another way to save time and promote healthy eating habits is to keep healthy snacks on hand that the whole family can grab on the go. We all know that feeling of being hangry and reaching for the nearest bag of chips or candy bar. With a little pre-planning, you can have snacks on hand that pack more of a nutritional punch.
Stock up on snacks like sliced veggies (carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) with hummus, hard-boiled eggs, or a homemade trail mix. These snacks are not only convenient but also packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibre. So the next time hunger strikes, a healthy option is within arm’s reach.
3. Use a slow cooker or instant pot
A slow cooker or instant pot is a busy family’s best friend. All you need to do is throw your ingredients in and let the magic happen while you go about your day. You can make everything from soups and stews to pulled pork or even oatmeal! The best part? It requires minimal effort and time.
4. Focus on nutrient-dense foods
When you’re short on time, it’s important to focus on nutrient-dense foods that will give you the most bang for your buck. Nutrient-dense foods are those that are high in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Foods like leafy greens, berries, avocados, nuts, and seeds are loaded with these beneficial compounds. Be sure to incorporate these types of foods into your meals as often as possible. For example, add a handful of spinach to kids’ morning smoothie or sprinkle some chia seeds on their yogurt. These small additions can make a big difference in your overall health.
5. Keep it simple and share the tasks
At the end of the day, eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. In fact, sometimes the simplest meals are the most nutritious.
Keep it simple by sticking to basic, whole foods and avoiding processed or pre-packaged foods as much as possible. Don’t get too caught up in complicated recipes or meal plans.
Sometimes a simple meal of grilled chicken and steamed veggies is all you need! Focus on building a plate that includes a variety of colours, textures, and food groups. Fill half the plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and the remaining quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables. This balanced approach ensures that you’re getting a wide range of nutrients and fuelling your body with the essentials.
And get the whole family involved by sharing the tasks from planning, shopping, washing, and cooking. Our family calls them team meetings, and sometimes they do come with eye rolls and sighs, but try talking through the reasons why and how being a busy family doesn’t mean you have to compromise healthier choices—with time, that goes a long way.
Dining out once in a while is a parenting win, but the benefits of eating home-cooked meals are endless.
Monika Tupholme is a respected athlete and sought-after performance nutritionist who works with busy, active families and young athletes to teach them key principles on how to support athletes nutritionally for optimal performance, better focus, and energy. She’s also a mom of two.