The make-up of a healthy diet seems to change as often as the seasons. One day fat is terrible for you, the next, it should make up most of what you eat. Oh, and avoid fruit and some vegetables, and don’t eat after a certain time, and make sure you avoid carbs at all costs. Cue eye roll.
Mix all this confusion in with work, a trip to the barn, errands, cleaning your house,
figuring out what to eat, picking up groceries and cooking for the family, and wrangling your kids to bed. Piece of cake!
As an equestrian, your to-do list tends to be longer than that of your non-horsey
friends. While I can’t help simplify everything on that list, I can help make nutrition less daunting. In a world of Instagram-worthy food photos and mixed messages regarding fads on what and what not to eat, healthy eating has become an additional stressor in our lives, when it really shouldn’t be.
So here are six tips to help keep nutrition simple for you and your whole family.
Stick to the basics.
Let’s not overcomplicate what a healthy diet looks like. If you make half your plate
vegetables, one quarter of your plate plant-based/lean protein or fatty fish, and the other quarter of your plate whole grains, you’ll be far better off than trying to keep up with the latest diet trends.
Plan ahead with the family.
Getting the whole family involved before making your way to the grocery store can save you the headache of someone “not feeling in the mood for *insert said food item here*” when dinnertime rolls around. One strategy includes choosing a new recipe to try that week and involving the whole family in choosing and preparing it.
Keep healthy food options available and accessible at home.
Have a list of staples in the house that you and your family can rely on. Examples include pre-washed vegetables with dip in the fridge, pre-washed fruit on the counter, and pre-washed salad mixes. You can also choose frozen produce instead of fresh for quicker and easier meal prep. Other ideas include canned tuna/salmon to throw into pasta sauces and salads, pre-portioned trail mixes to snack on, and having nut butters on hand to serve with an apple or banana.
Quit the clean plate club.
We all know that club, the one where you can’t leave an ounce of food on your plate. Most of us either have been, or still are, members of it. Not only does this tend to result in a frustrating dinnertime battle with your kids, but it can make it challenging for your kids to learn to eat intuitively, lead to disordered eating, and it can be a hard habit to break. Instead, make sure there’s at least one food item on their plate that they will enjoy and let them decide when they’ve had enough to eat.
This will save you so much of your precious time. Batch cooking allows you to prepare most or all of your meals for the week when you’re able to spare an hour or two. Some examples of things to prepare in advance include quinoa, beans, potatoes, eggs, lentils, and overnight oats. When you’re ready to eat, simply heat the food up, dress them up, and add your desired toppings.
Some days call for takeout or ordering in, and repeat after me, that’s OK. Life happens. No matter how much we plan and prepare our meals in advance, there are some days that you need to run to the barn to meet the farrier because your horse threw a shoe, or you’re on carpool duty, or other days that you just plain don’t feel like cooking. And again, that’s OK.
While nutrition science is complex, eating healthy doesn’t have to be. You can start to implement some of the tips above by making small changes. For example, start by trading out produce that needs to be washed and chopped with pre-washed, pre-chopped options. Or try dining out one less day each week. It may take some trial and error, but soon enough you’ll find which tricks work to keep you and your family eating well while making mealtimes less stressful.
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Natalie Gavi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about the power that food plays in health and athletic performance.