As mums, it’s all too easy to ignore our own nutrition and focus all our efforts on the kids – what they eat, making sure they are drinking enough, worrying about the last time they ate a vegetable! How can we properly look after kids when we are run down though? It’s become a cliche, but you can’t give from an empty cup. Whether you are pregnant, or a mum of toddlers, or older kids – are you looking after your own diet? I don’t mean are you on a diet, that’s different. What I mean is, are you eating your 5 a day, drinking your water, eating the rainbow, getting protein first thing…? No? Well you are not alone.
Since being pregnant I have taken much more care of what I eat and how I take care of myself. And I’ve been thinking of quick and easy ways we can all sneak in better nutrition into our day for us and our whole family. There are several key ideas to this approach: firstly, it’s all about making one thing that you can customise for you and your kids. Secondly, treating yourself in the same way that you care for them – be just as vigilant.
Here are 10 easy and delicious ways to make sure you get what you need to be the best mum you can be, plus a little video with some ideas for a healthy, hearty breakfast – something that will set you up for the whole day.
1. Eat a wholefood or protein-rich breakfast
The idea is you make, say porridge, and put a little Nutella in theirs maybe with some berries on the side if they like, whilst you pile on nuts, seed, strawberries, almond butter and anything else healthy that you fancy. Think whole and think protein. These are now your breakfast keywords!! An amazing breakfast will stop you snacking and make you feel great. Follow up with vitamins – for them and you! The kids like the chewy teddy bear ones from Boots. And for me at the moment it’s folic acid and iron with Vit D. But for non pregnant people too, a daily multivitamin wouldn’t go amiss.
2. Swap caffeine for smoothies
If you are a coffee lover, like me, then maybe limit coffee to one a day. Or if you really want to go for it, then a few times a week (or daily even better) swap a caffeine hit for a smoothie that you can all enjoy. A go to that the family will tolerate as well as being great for me is: kale, avocado, berrries, banana, water and a little orange juice. The vitamin C will help you consume the iron and also the sweetness will help it go down!
3. Hydrate, mate!
OK, so I stole that rhyme from a brand of water bottle. But here’s the idea. I give my kids a bottle of water to take to school and hassle the crap out of them if they come home and it’s full still. Especially my daughter who suffers with constipation sometimes, to a chronic degree if I don’t keep a close eye. So why not apply the same rule to myself? I bought a large 900ml plastic bottle with timings down the site and slightly cringe messages too from Amazon: this is the exact one I have. Sure, you could use a glass, or an Evian bottle but for me that doesn’t work. This way I keep an eye on the time – right now it’s 11am and I was behind so I caught up to where I should be. Then you refill at 12pm and repeat. At bedtime you have drunk 1800ml which is great. This is one of the biggest changes I have done for myself recently and it works a treat – I feel and look better – and someone told me hydration is the absolute key to avoiding too many under eye wrinkles, so get drinking!
4. See lunch as an opportunity for what YOU want
At lunchtime in my house, the kids are at school – maybe you are at home like me, too, or maybe you are at your desk at work? Maybe you are at home with a baby or toddler? Anyway, lunchtime is a time for you to make something really nice and tasty – with things that just you like. Be selfish! Choose something delicious and healthy too. If you want a smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese (one of my faves) then pack it with spinach too. Maybe a kale salad with lots of feta and ripe tomatoes? See this midday meal as a chance to ramp up your veggie intake and also have something really really good. Batch make salad grains like cous cous, quinoa, brown rice at the start of the week and make a big salad that can last a few days. Roast some veggies to toss through the salads. If you and your little one are eating together, take the same premise as with breakfast. Make the same thing but pimp yours up? Could you have avocado, scrambled eggs and brown toast? Pop some chilli sauce on yours and add some kale to the eggs perhaps?
5. Boost meals with hidden veggies
My main advice to any mum struggling to get veg into her kids is this: hide them. I dice carrot courgette, celery, onions and anything else I reckon I can get away with into ragus, stews, soups, anything and everything. Pulverise the sauce if you have to so there is no evidence. Make a homemade pesto with kale in – they will never know! But always think: how can I cram veggies into this meal without them noticing? Of course, not all meals are like this – so see point 8.
6. Snack right
Snacks – as a pregnant women these are LIFE at the moment!I don’t normally snack that much – when you eat well generally you seriously don’t need to. But if you can’t get through to dinnertime without eating something, then try to make it healthy but delicious. Apple slices with peanut butter, houmous with carrot sticks or wholemeal pitta. A sliver of smoked salmon wrapped around a cucumber stick, a celery stick with cream cheese, or a piece of strong mature cheese with a few raisins. I also love snacking on nuts – almonds are so good at keeping hunger at bay. Or keep it simple, a banana or an orange can hit the spot if you want something sweet. Keep boiled eggs in the fridge ready to go – douse with Sriracha for a great protein hit. Of course there is room for chocolate, sometimes it is ALL THAT WILL DO – see point 10.
7. Eating out? Have what you want (80/20 rule)
Assuming you aren’t eating out all the time, then for most people eating out is a treat. Don’t sweat it – have the burger. If you are living a generally healthy life and eat well most of the time, then just have what you fancy. By denying yourself treats you only crave them more in my experience. I also think modelling a passion for ALL food is great. My mum is slim and has a great outlook with her food and diet generally and I inherited that. When we eat out as a family I have a coke, and I enjoy a big fat burger with ALL the fries – I want my kids to know that chowing down and enjoying it is fine – just not all the time!
8. Salads and sides
Come dinnertime, if it’s not a hidden veg type meal like spag bol, casserole etc, then consider a side salad. I make one most nights and make the adult one nice and sophisticated, and then have a little side bowl with several plain components in it, like cucumber, tomatoes, maybe some sweetcorn or carrot sticks. Not only can they snack on these when they come hunting for food starving asking when it will be ready, but I know that they are getting veggies with their meal, no matter if it is pizza or pasta pesto.
9. Eat dessert!
Yes, you heard me. Dessert can be a chance for you to get some extra nutrition. Don’t go mad; a few berries, sliced, some tinned peaches or slices of banana and a tablespoon of yoghurt is enough per person. I drizzle a little honey over too. Sometimes I add half a handful of granola. The whole family can benefit from this sweet round off to any meal.
10. Eat the Goddamn treat!
Finally, the most important one. Be balanced. Just as being unhealthy and paying no attention to your nutrition is bad, so is being too vigilant. There is a growing concern over people, mainly women, being too strict, too worried about only eating plant based food, or ruling out food groups that are ‘bad’ for them when in most cases they are completely fine. Try to relax. Sometimes a packet of cheese and onion is just the ticket. Fish and chips from the takeaway after a busy week is a great family ritual. A Saturday brunch of bacon, eggs, sausages, beans and mushrooms is part of our routine most weekends. At the moment I am SO partial to a packet of fizzy Haribos every now and then. Don’t think of any food as bad. As long as you are hitting all the right notes most of the time, treats are perfectly fine so enjoy them guilt free.
How do you make sure your diet is balanced? Or do you feel you igore your own nutrition and obsess about the kids? Perhaps you all need an overhaul – let me know!