Being a working parent can be a lot. Sometimes, it can feel like there is too much on your ‘plate’ to think about what is on your actual plate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports most U.S. parents are working, and weekly work hours have gone up among two-earner couples, single mothers, the poor, and racial and ethnic minorities.
Dr. Carol Devine, Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, stated that long work hours and irregular schedules have led to parents having to spend more time away from family. This leads to less time for household food work, challenges in keeping a regular meal pattern, and less opportunity to take part in family meals.
At the end (or start) of a long day, serving a well-balanced, healthy meal to your family may seem like a tall order. Below are some tips you can use to make sure your family is eating healthy despite a busy schedule!
- Share household food roles: Split shopping and cooking chores with a partner or neighbor. This can make eating healthy faster and easier. It gives each person some time off from shopping or cooking without having to eat out.
- Learn how to plan and cook quick healthy meals: Quick and healthy does not have to be mutually exclusive. Coming up with a few meals that you are comfortable making when time is tight will give you the confidence that your healthy diet can endure whatever life throws at you. Don’t know what to make? Using choosemyplate.gov is a great way to learn about what comprises a healthy meal.
- Engage children in meal prep as part of family time: Families are spending more time apart than in recent years. Using meal prep as a family activity can help you spend quality time together while at the same time maintaining a healthy diet. Also, it is a great time to teach your children a valuable skill!
- Plan or cook meals ahead: If you know that the next few days will be chaotic, use your day off (or least busy day) to do most of your meal prep work and cooking. The Mayo Clinic reports that menu planning has also been shown to save money by making grocery shopping more efficient and it’s also easier to resist impulse buys.
Pack lunches from home: If you are someone who goes to fast food restaurants during your lunch break at work, consider this: A Double Whopper® with cheese, large fry, and a large Coke from Burger King contains about 2100 calories and 100 grams of fat! Of course, there are healthier fast food options, but packing a lunch from home helps to make sure that you will resist the temptation of that Double Whopper® calling your name! If you need an extra incentive to pack a lunch from home, think about how much money you can save by using what is already in your fridge and pantry.