My patients often tell me that having to find time to cook for their family makes it harder to eat well themselves.  I polled some of my friends who are working moms to get some real life tips, and I got an especially awesome response with lots of great ideas from my good friend Dr Ronagh Hatcher, a family physician in Calgary who has two little ones at home.  Here’s what she had to say!  

#1 – Be organized.   It takes time to get there but the more you can plan ahead the healthier you will eat.  As we have food alergies/intolerances in our family, we don’t have a lot of options so we have to be organized.  Every Sunday, we plan out our meals for the week; from there, we develop a grocery list.  That way, every day I know what we are having for dinner, and most days we already have everything we need.  You will also find it saves you money!!

#2 – Make freezer meals.   Once a week I try to make triple or more of a meal that freezes well.  We have it for dinner that night, then store the unused portions for those days when you won’t have time to cook.  After a few weeks I end up with a great selection in the freezer.  This is a huge timesaver as it means I don’t have to cook a few nights a week.  Things I find that freeze well are spaghetti sauce, pulled pork, lasagna, curries, chicken taco meat, shepards pie, turkey meatballs, chili…  Just to name a few!  Homemade muffins and soups also freeze well for healthy lunch/snack options.  I invested in some quality Pyrex glass storage wear with plastic lids…  They can go straight from the freezer to the microwave or oven.  

Dr Sue’s comment:  I’m secretly a bit envious of Ronagh’s family and all the great food they get to eat.  Ronagh was my roommate years ago in med school, and I LOVED it when she cooked for me!

#3 – Get aquainted with a slow cooker – this is key for working parents!!!! It means you can take 5-10 minutes in the morning to throw stuff in your slow cooker, turn it on, and presto…  dinner is done when you get home.  I recommend buying a large volume one because these meals are usually good for leftovers, or for ‘freezer meals’.  I have a recipe book that does not require you brown the meat first, which is also a big time saver.  

#4 – Make ahead healthy lunch options.  There are certain lunches that I can eat for days in a row and never get sick of them.  It is worth making the effort one day to have the convenience for the next three!  Things I like to do this with are homemade soups, like roasted butternut squash, or salads like couscous or quinoa ones that keep well.  Some pre made options I really like are ‘Imagine Organic Creamy Tomato’ and Costco quinoa salad.  

Dr Sue:  Nutritional info for these foods is in the links – just click on them! Remember to portion control. 🙂

#5 – Shop around for healthier pre made food options for when you just dont have the time or energy…  here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Superstore blue menu has some great flax chicken strips
  • Buy Costco falafels, heat in a pan and serve with rice and salad
  • Cooked whole chicken –  chop and sauté with onions and tomato sauce for a quick pasta sauce, or serve over salad for a fresh lighter meal.  The possibilities are endless here.  
  • If you need a pizza fix…  Delicio harvest wheat thin crust pizza is a MUCH healthier opinion than takeout
  • local premade food companies…  I use one called ‘Green Figs and Yams’ – for $16 dollars a dish you can buy healthy freezer ready entrees for 3-4 people.  

#6 – If you don’t know how to cook, learn!   Some great healthy cookbooks are the Looney spoons/Crazy Plates ones.   They have tons of healthy yet tasty recipes, complete with nutritional information. 

Dr Sue’s comment – I use these recipe books too – I love them so much that I asked for (and received) permission from the authors to post the odd recipe from their collection

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2012

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