It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or so the song goes. While this season elicits warm memories, it can be incredibly stressful, especially for moms, the holiday magicians.
We squeeze in time to deck the halls; shop for, wrap and ship gifts; write cards and letters; bake and exchange cookies; trips to see Santa; festive gatherings and open houses; and out-of-town travel – in addition to our normal, hectic schedules. And if our quest for the perfect holiday experience isn’t enough pressure, what about all the events at our children’s school? No wonder we’re relieved when the big day finally arrives!
Feeling overwhelmed is common, and we often make mistakes that impact nutrient intake. We may opt for quick and easy, but quick and easy can be higher in fat and calories. One of the biggest mistakes is feeling it’s inevitable families can’t eat well with such busy schedules.
Here are some stress-busting, healthy meal tips:
- Plan ahead and simplify. Take a look at the week’s schedule at some point (likely the weekend) and plan for some simple meals. Dinners and snacks don’t have to be fancy to be nutritious and complete.
- Make sure you have what you need on hand for some impromptu meals for nights you may have forgotten.
- Pull out your slow cooker for those long days when you know you’re in a time crunch. Or create something delicious in your multi-purpose cooker.
- When you are preparing meals, think of ways to stretch the main entrée item by doubling it and freezing the second portion. If you’re making chicken breasts, cook twice as much and throw it into a salad the next day, or over rice with some vegetables and a sauce of your choice. Ask a neighbor to do the same (make twice as much) and swap meals.
- Stock the house with healthy quick items: fruits, vegetables and dip, dried fruits, and yogurt or cottage cheese for the times when you need something in a hurry.
- If you need to grab something from a quick service restaurant, take it home and add a fruit and a vegetable to help round out the meal. Offer milk or water and the meal can still be a sensible option for an evening that hasn’t gone as planned or has simply gotten away.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza, plan ahead so you and your children don’t feel deprived. If you’re going to a party, keep the rest of the day’s food selections healthier. You might allow your child one or two small desserts per event (discuss this with them in advance).