So, what should you do? The secret to eating right is to have your recipes lined up for the week, scheduled in such a way that you don't need to babysit a 5lb roast on your family's busiest night, and have all the ingredients that you need on hand, where you can find them. Time is an issue for almost everyone these days, but that shouldn't be an excuse for resorting to highly processed "convenience foods". Not only are there thousands of healthy recipes that can be thrown together in 20 minutes or less; you can also plan ahead to make large portions of slow-cooking foods like soups, stews, and large meat cuts on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, then freeze individual portions for easy meals on busier days.
The ritual of cooking on a weekend afternoon is a great way to spend family time, getting kids (and spouse!) more involved in the food they eat. Kids learn to make dietary choices by watching their parents, and the only way to instill good eating habits that will last a lifetime is to model them at home. Involve kids in choosing the weekly menu... offer them several healthy choices and let them choose what they want, and on which days. Let them watch and help with preparing the shopping list, and assist with age-appropriate cooking activities on "cooking day". It's amazing how many eighteen-year-olds leave the house for college or work, knowing only how to zap a frozen dinner in the microwave. It's a parent's job to teach children the skills they will need when they grow up, and what skill is more basic than the ability to feed themselves?
In addition to strengthening the bonds of family, healthy meal plans can strengthen the bonds in a community. If you've never visited your local farmers' market, you'll be amazed at the difference between the frenzy of hunch-shouldered supermarket shoppers maneuvering their battered carts through the crowded grocery store aisles, and the bustle of people talking and laughing as they move from stall to stall at the open air market, chatting with the farmers over tables of fresh, sustainably raised, local meat and produce. It's night and day.
So, give it a try. Sit down, write out a week's worth of recipe plans, write down all the ingredients you will need, and set aside a few hours one day to roast a chicken or make a huge pot of stew and a loaf of homemade bread. See how good it feels to toss out all the shrink-wrapped trash that you know you and your kids shouldn't be eating, and replace it with fresh, locally-grown food that makes your mouth water as it simmers on the stove on a cold winter afternoon. By changing your diet, you can change how you look, how you feel, and even your children's future. Why wait?
Rachel Steffan is a foodie with an interest in increasing people's awareness of local food, sustainable agriculture, and healthy eating.
Healthy Meal Plans
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