Eat Like A (Healthy-ish) Mother
By Michelle Sweezey
Recently I represented Girls on The Grid for a local news segment on healthy affordable lunches for kids. I was more than happy to do it, and bring my kiddos with me, because it’s something that’s easy for us to talk about; eating healthy is how we live.
Now, I don’t mean to say we never eat unhealthy foods, that’s far from the truth, but I do for the most part choose to eat food that fuels, rather than depletes, my life. And as the person in charge of what goes into two young growing and changing bodies, I make sure my kids do too.
I know this might sound like a bunch of hypocritical hippie granola shit from a yoga teacher. It totally could be . . . but it’s not.
I’m a single mother of two kids with three jobs, a tiny budget, a (healthy attempt at a) social life and a dedicated fitness practice. I’m busy, people. B-U-S-Y. Not a little, a lotta bit, and I’m telling you, if I can make healthy food happen, so can you.
Here’s my philosophy when it comes to the foundations of our meals:
Step One- Eat real food.
Step Two- Eat real food.
Step Three- See above. EAT REAL FOOD.
No really. Eat whole foods, not processed. I don’t convenience shop for fast foods, because honestly, the “real” fast food is actually just. . . real food. It requires minimal to no preparation, it maintains maximum nutritional and energetic benefit, and it’s actually cheaper in the long run than that shit in a box.
So, here’s how I usually make this happen in real time:
Saturdays and/or Sundays– produce at the Farmer’s Markets. It gives the kids something to do, and keeps our fruits and veggies local, organic, cheap and fresh. Plus, there is socializing, and grown-ups, and farm-to-fork brunch with mimosas. See, told you, not all healthy…
Once a week- protein shopping- nuts, milks, meat. I usually do this at the Co-Op, Trader Joes on occasion, or if I’m really in a jam, I’ll hit up Safeway. I try to keep this sub 20. How? I bring my children with me. This basically guarantees I will spend exactly zero minutes longer than absolutely necessary in the store. The result- No specialty imported teas nor $8 boxes of organic granola made by magical tree fairies in the blue zone land in my basket. #winning.
Oh, and when I get home, while I’m putting away any other groceries, doing laundry, or some other mundane task I can’t manipulate my children into doing, I usually boil one package of chicken breasts to shred, slice another into strips to cook for lunch meat, and throw something else on the grill. Yes, I do multitask like a mother. Obviously. And yes, I do use timers. Because multitasking leads to forgetting, and it turns out no one likes poultry a la burned. Whiners.
Then, after I have all the bases covered, I generally follow these Food Guidelines*:
Keep it simple. Like five ingredients or fewer simple. Sidenote- there are pretty much no vegetables that don’t taste amazing roasted with coconut/olive or avocado oil and freshly grated sea salt and pepper. I can’t even think of one. Try it, and say bye forever to brown steamed broccoli.
Veggies, Protein and fats, Grain/Starch, Fruit. In that order, just about every meal. Fiber and vitamins hit my belly first, then protein and fats to balance my blood sugar and fuel my brain, a grain or starch to keep my carb-seeking-blood happy (and so I can crush my workouts), and a fruit to offer a sweet finish with some more fiber and vitamins.
Choose food that is in whole form, or as close to whole as possible. Think fruits, vegetables, boiled eggs, shredded chicken, rice, etc… Basically, the opposite of things that come in boxes. Buy them in bulk, from a CSA, a farm, whatever. Just try to leave all cardboard behind.
If it’s not whole, limit the ingredients as significantly as possible. I try to stick to things with five ingredients or fewer. Think this is most of your packaged food? It’s not. Go read the label on your bread, then get back to me. . .
(Rolling your eyes? Stop calling me the Bad News Bears and keep reading. . .)
If it’s processed, try to keep it organic and locally sourced. It took less work to get to the store, it’s likely fresher, and is maintaining higher nutritional value than something shipped across the country. The longer it’s been sitting the less energetic value it has to offer my body. And you KNOW I’m #AllAboutThatEnergy.
Choose organic, not “natural.” Natural doesn’t mean shit, people. Corn syrup is “natural.” Look for USDA certified organic, and then read the labels. Corn syrup, by the way, can also be organic. Read.Those.Labels.
Stock up with healthy choices so that when I get home from a full day working and a 75 minute power vinyasa class and want to eat every single thing in my field of vision when I open the fridge… it’s coconut water and a banana, not a loaf of white french bread smothered in brie cheese and chased with peanut butter and dark chocolate squares sandwiches. Okay. Fine. Sometimes the latter. Chocolate is good for you. . . probably.
Eat the rainbow. Not the monogrammed kind. . .
If it makes my belly hurt, it’s not worth it. This might mean cheese. This also might mean french bread. It definitely means cake. I repeat- if it hurts my belly, it’s NOT WORTH IT.
Have your fat and eat it too. No really. Butter. Coconut oil. Avocadoes. Stuff that in your mouth when you wake up in the morning. Teach your body to burn fat, not muscle, by eating the right kind at the right time. Yes, I did just give you permission to eat sweet potatoes fried in coconut oil. You can thank me later. Over a sour beer. At Low Brau. #duchessefortheduchesse
So, Sacramento. . . ready to eat smarter? Cool. Want to do it with friends? Fabulous. Share the love, and the knowledge.
Good Health, I’ll drink to that. . .
*Remember I said guidelines. This means at least 80% of our food choices are consistent with this outline. This also means that about 20% are … not. Because life is a balance, and it’s also short. So. Go live it. Well fueled and with no excuses.