As a part-time working Mom with two kids, I know first hand how easy it is to completely forget to pack your lunch (and/or eat breakfast) amidst the morning chaos, when trying to get myself and my kids ready for the day ahead. And this is coming from someone who thinks about food A LOT, so I’m guessing that other Moms come across these same issues too. So, I’ve come up with some life-saving tricks that help me to stay well-fuelled during my work day, save me loads of money and probably save me from eating unhealthy extra calories that I don’t need.
Here are my top 5 nutrition tips for working Moms:
1) Break the fast with your kids:
Every morning I prepare a healthy breakfast for my kids, and make it a habit to eat with them. It surprises me how many parents go to the effort of making their kids a healthy breakfast, but don’t eat it themselves, or stop at the drive-thru on the way to work. The benefit of eating breakfast with your kids is three-fold: You save money, you eat healthier and you take advantage of the opportunity to model healthy eating to your kids, which is worth the 10 minutes it takes to sit down and eat with them.
Here are some of our favourite weekday breakfast options:
This apple cinnamon oatmeal muffin with greek yogurt and fruit
This flourless peanut butter muffin with a fruit smoothie
These five oatmeal options
2) Have “grab and go” breakfasts on hand:
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, not only giving your metabolism a kick-start, but giving you energy and fuel to function throughout the morning. Including enough protein in your breakfast can also help curb cravings in the afternoon and evening and may steer you away from unhealthy snacking later on as well. On those days where sitting down and eating breakfast is just not an option, or if you’re a frequent breakfast skipper, have some grab-and-go options on hand, so that you’re not stuck choosing between unhealthy option A or unhealthy option B at the coffee shop, or skipping breakfast all together.
The two muffin recipes above are perfect for days like these, paired with a piece of fruit and a couple of slices of cheese, an individual yogurt or a latte. These mini breakfast burritos or these muffin-tin omelettes both freeze well and provide a hefty dose of protein to help keep you full for a few hours in the morning, and these make-your-own instant oatmeal packs are great to make once you get to the office, or this make-ahead slow-cooker oatmeal is perfect for packing and heating up at the office. Making your own yogurt parfait (which takes one minute) is a great option too. Choose your favourite plain or flavoured yogurt (I prefer greek because of the higher protein content), top with fruit and homemade granola or high fibre breakfast cereal (bonus: add a tablespoon of chia seeds or hemp hearts). I often make a fruit smoothie the night before containing greek yogurt, banana, frozen berries, spinach, milk and peanut butter (there’s a good recipe in this blog post), keep it in the fridge over night, throw a couple of ice cubes in it the next morning and take it with me to go.
3) Have emergency lunch and snack items ready to go:
If you’re a working Mom, I cannot stress enough how important leftovers can be for easy lunch options, but on those days where you just don’t feel like leftovers (or there aren’t any), emergency throw-together-in-a-pinch lunches are key. These are comprised of healthy (but convenient, and possibly packaged) foods that you can literally grab from your fridge or pantry and throw into your bag. It’s important to remember to pack enough for snacks as well, otherwise, you’ll be caught running to the vending machine or coffee shop mid-afternoon, likely choosing not-so-healthy options. Here are some of my emergency lunches:
- mini can of tuna + whole grain crackers + raw veggies (already washed and chopped in fridge–this is key) + miniature package of hummus (can buy at Costco) + piece of fruit
- dehydrated split pea soup cup (can be found in soup aisle) + low sodium v8 juice, slice of whole grain bread + piece of fruit + hard boiled egg
- individual greek yogurt + individual cottage cheese (mix together) + frozen berries + homemade granola
- whole grain wrap + 2 tbsp natural peanut butter (in small container) + banana (peanut butter banana wrap) + cheese + cucumber and carrots + milk
- homemade muffin + sliced cheese + hardboiled egg + fruit + homemade trail mix
4) Double or triple your supper recipes:
My number one favourite lunch? Leftovers. When I have time to cook a well balanced supper (which is most nights unless we’re in a rush and need a quick and easy supper), I make A LOT. I most often triple a recipe so that we have enough for one night of leftovers and a couple days of lunches. This way, I’m cooking once, but get three or four meals out of it. We either pack and eat leftovers as is (for example: lasagna, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese), or re-purpose parts of a meal to make into several other meals, for example, make tacos one night, but cook triple the amount of meat and make taco salad, taco pizza and burritos out of it. We also do this with BBQ chicken: Barbecue two chickens instead of one, and use leftover meat for sandwiches, quesadillas, homemade pizza, and soup. Here are some of the recipes that I like to make ALOT of:
Homemade Chicken, Veggie Noodle Soup (I add extra veggies)
5) Set a timer:
It is too easy to get caught up in your work and forget to eat during work days (or any day when you have kids!). Unfortunately, this often leads to ravenous hunger later on and overeating at your next meal or snack (most often on the most convenient, appealing, and often unhealthy choice). This is why setting a timer can be helpful– to remind you to tune in to your hunger cues every few hours. You might not be hungry yet (in which case you wait a bit longer and tune in again), or you might be starting to feel subtle hunger (this is when you should eat something), which could turn into ravenous hunger if left too long. This is most helpful for people who tend to skip meals and snacks and overeat when they get home and into the night. Set a timer on your watch or phone for every 3-4 hours.
Here are some helpful resources from The Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month 2015 Campaign: Eating 9-5!
I post free daily nutrition tips, recipes and nutrition articles for parents on my Facebook page. Feel free to check it out!