Making health convenient.
"Convenience foods" typically bring to mind packaged snack bars, chips, and frozen dinners – not exactly the most nutritious foods in the supermarket. But what about pre-washed bags of salad, baby carrots, nectarines, apples, individual bags of salt-free nuts, or portion packs of hummus? Healthy options DO exist, but are enough of us taking advantage of them?
Apparently not. Less than half of us are getting enough fruits and veggies into our day according to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation. Why? According to those I talk with, healthy food is too much work and oftentimes overwhelming.
So, how can we overcome these challenges?
Well, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, we simply have to begin serving them. All it took for the researchers to boost produce intake in six New York elementary schools by 50% was to serve fresh fruit, pre-cut in nice little baggies. These options are even available here in Michigan, thanks to manufacturers such as Peterson Farms who are providing local Michigan produce to our schools though large food service distributors. And the options do NOT end at apples; I have seen jicama being served in individual portioned bags. Impressive right?
Okay, so serve ready-to-serve produce items, and even kids will eat them… Sounds easy enough right? But how can we make this a reality?
- Determine what healthy foods are missing in your diet. Leafy greens? Vibrant orange veggies? Sweet fruit? Whole grains? Fish? Nuts?
- Assess your options. Scope out your local supermarket to determine how you can bring these foods into your diet without the added stress.
- It is up to us to find and purchase convenience foods that are actually good for us or to do the prep ourselves in a kitchen well-stocked with ready-to-eat foods. If you truly are pressed for time and can afford the extra cost, buy everything pre-prepped and ready to serve. Or, find a middle of the road option, and buy healthy choices in bulk (6 hearts of romaine lettuce, giant bags of unsalted almonds or walnuts, dried fruit) and divvy them up into individual servings yourself.
- Plan them into your day. Without a meal plan, even our best intentions to eat right end up rotting in the crisper. Think of at least a few meals each week where you know you will be home and able to eat around the dinner table. Then, find your recipe (think easy meals per Sandra Lee) or bring up a few Pins you have been hoping to make. Now, when you visit the grocery store WITH YOUR SHOPPING LIST, you will remember that you need whole grain pasta, frozen diced butternut squash, fresh spinach, canned diced tomatoes, canned garbanzo beans, and crumbled feta for a tasty skillet dinner.
- Finally, make them available! Create a bin of healthy snacks in the pantry as well as the refrigerator. Stock up on whole grain granola bars that are not high in added sugars, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, pre-cut veggies, bags of shredded broccoli slaw or cabbage, salad mixes, veggie burgers, Greek yogurt, etc. and place them front and center!
When a craving strikes (or when the clock strikes 6 o’clock), we are going to be on the prowl for food… FAST. If a bowl of hard-boiled eggs is there to greet you in your refrigerator, along with hummus and celery sticks, then you may actually be able to eat right! Alternatively, if all you have on hand is Cocoa Pebbles or Ramen and maybe even some fresh produce, though completely unwashed or prepped, then you are going to struggle a bit more to dine on a healthy, balanced meal.
Make it easy on yourself, and your family, to eat right. If I didn’t do this in our home, my husband would surely miss out on ALL of his fruits and veggies. And I must admit, that when I get overly hungry… well, all I can say is watch out. If healthy options are not available FAST, I will not be eating them.
What are you doing in your home to simplify eating right?