Healthy Eating for Busy Families

 

Is it even possible? In today’s modern world, many families have either two full-time working parents or a single parent doing it all, so the thought of whipping together a healthy, home-cooked meal certainly does feel daunting. If I can offer any encouragement to you this month, it’s to know that eating healthy at home is possible, if you start by shifting your mindset and keeping it simple.

 

Let me start by introducing myself. I am a full-time health coach and the new Wellness Director here at AllOne Health. My husband and I have five small humans at home, ranging from 2 – 16 years old so it’s a bit of a circus. Do I cook homemade meals every night? Not a chance. Do I have a backup plan and rules in place at all times? You better believe it!

 

First, make eating together a priority. Your family will always eat better when you eat together. I remember growing up, we had to sit down every single morning with my mom and start the day together. It certainly cut into my hair crimping and bang curling priorities but it was one of the best habits my mom ever instilled in me. Make dinner time a priority at your home. Kids who regularly eat meals with their families are not only healthier, but they also do better in school, develop more advanced language skills, and are less likely to drink alcohol or experiment with drugs as teenagers (Fiese and Schwartz, 2008).

 

If your kids are picky, don’t give up! Remember, you are still the parent and get to set the ground rules. Give them the chance to help at the grocery store or in the kitchen. Always give them choices at dinner but don’t cook separate meals for them. Start with the fruits or vegetables they will eat and expand from there. And always, lead by example. When kids see you eating a side salad first at dinner or cutting up fresh fruit for movie night, they will follow suit.

 

Plan meals ahead of time. The chances of coming home after a long day of work, deciding what to make for dinner, and then finding all the right ingredients are slim to none. Avoid this problem by spending an hour coming up with a menu for the week. Consider creating a family calendar that includes everyone’s activities, as well as the planned menu for each day. Everyone will know what to expect, and you can maximize the chances you’ll be able to quickly put together a healthy family meal.

Remember that a healthy dinner consists of 3-4 food groups, or according to www.myplate.gov, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. This should feel encouraging because instead of thinking you have to become the new Kraft Mom or Pinterest guru, you can rely on a turkey sandwich with tomato soup or macaroni and cheese with broccoli and grilled chicken. Oftentimes, we put so much pressure on ourselves to create beautiful home-cooked meals when really it’s just about variety and recycling throughout the week. Somedays, we eat pancakes with fruit and yogurt for dinner. Other nights, we have chicken veggies pizzas. Ultimately, you want to have one source of lean protein, 1-2 veggies, and 1 complex carbohydrate for dinner.

 

Create an emergency list. You know those nights when you are driving home from work or jumping off your last conference call and you have absolutely no idea what to make for dinner. We’ve all been there, myself included! Create an emergency list of meals that you can rely on, especially when you fail to plan. We are much more likely to eat healthy at home than we are if we choose take-out options. Your emergency list contains 4-5 meals that are quick and easy to prepare, as well as always stocked in your freezer or pantry. For example, our family emergency list includes the following:

 

Spaghetti Night

Omelette Night

Cauliflower Fried Rice Night

Tortellini & Spinach Soup

 

This list is kept on the inside door of my pantry. When I go to restock groceries at the store, I make sure all of the ingredients for these meals are always on hand or added to the grocery list. This gives me a handful of meals to rely on, especially when I don’t feel like cooking or fail to plan entirely!

 

Eating healthy takes intentional effort each week. Whether you are cooking for one or cooking for seven, if you make nutrition a priority within your home, you’ll learn through practice. If anything, just take action and choose one of these ideas today. Discuss it with your family and get their input. A goal on your own is harder to sustain but if it is a goal for everyone to adapt together, you’ll be surprised how much easier it can feel long term. You got this!

10-Minute Meals to satisfy the whole family

Hi friends, Coach Kendra here. One thing I completely understand is life is busy!  And at the end of a busy day, the last thing you want to think about is whipping up a fancy dinner.  As a busy mom of three, a wife and a small business owner, I am right there with you. The pressure to be great at cooking is big, I know. In fact, I grew up with a mom that was an amazing cook.  She could whip together a meal in no time at all, but it typically involved a 9 x 13 pan with ground beef, tater tots, canned soup and frozen veggies.  Oh, and jello with canned fruit on the side!  I’ve had to learn how to cook meals that are not just healthy, but are kid friendly and require minimal time in the kitchen.

Want in on my little secrets?

Practice makes perfect

I don’t know of any client or friend who lives a healthy lifestyle and doesn’t learn to enjoy cooking, at least somewhat.  You may hate it now, but it’s not as bad as you think.  Maybe you just need to start by getting your kitchen more organized and set up for success.  For example, do you have enough counter space to assemble meals, chop vegetables and have a great system for all your cooking utensils?  Maybe you need to start in the pantry and stock up on staples that you can rely on during busy week nights.  Things like canned tomatoes, beans, salsa, marinara sauce, chicken broth and spices.

Simplify

Do you feel as if you’re in complete disarray when it comes to meal planning systems? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! You just need to find a system that works for YOU.  I recommend having a visible meal planning board in the kitchen, so you know that tacos are on Tuesday, skillet night is Wednesday and lettuce wraps are Thursday.  I also recommend that you simplify your existing collection of recipes.  I’ll admit, I have recipes in my cabinet that I have never even used, or made it and didn’t like it.  Get rid of them!  You really only need 10-15 great go-to recipes a season.  SIMPLIFY!

Time management

I can’t spill all the beans but my last tip would be to better utilize your time at night.  Mornings for me look like a chicken with its head cut off.  It’s just plain nuts.  I’m lucky to get my hair up in a pony tail some days.  If you have a few minutes at night, use that commercial break or time cleaning up around the house to prep your dinner for the next day.  Place chicken breasts in a zip-lock bag and add olive oil, seasoning to marinade over night.  Ground turkey up in a skillet with olive oil and chopped onions.  Add taco seasoning and you have taco salad, taco soup, taco pizza, taco whatever all week long.  And who doesn’t love the handy dandy crock pot?  Dump and cover.  Now that is my kind of cooking!

Enjoy some of my favorite go-to 10-minute meals below.  For a complete list of recipes or to schedule a LIVE cooking workshop at your workplace, email kendra@allegrocoaching.com!  You can also check us out on Pinterest to see some of OUR favorite meals at Allegro!

 

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps 

  • asian2 chicken breasts pounded very thin and chopped into small pieces
  • ½ cup water chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • ½ cup shelled edamame
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ hoisin sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
  • 1 head butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce

 

Drizzle a large pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add chicken and next 4 ingredients to large pan. Sauté over medium heat 5-10 minutes until veggies are tender and chicken is cooked through.  Add remaining ingredients (except for lettuce) to the pan. Stir and sauté about 5 minutes longer. Serve in lettuce leaves and top with additional sriracha sauce.

 

 

Easy Creamy Crock-Pot Coconut Curry Chicken

curry

  • 2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 (6 oz ) can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (can be found in regular grocery stores)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

*arrowroot powder acts like cornstarch

 

 

Heat coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute’ for 4 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garam masala, curry powder and chili powder and saute’ for 1 minute, until fragrant.

Stir in coconut milk, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and add arrowroot powder. Whisk until the lumps are gone, turn off the heat.

Grease the inside of your crock pot bowl with a bit of olive oil. Add chicken chunks, pour the sauce over it and stir to coat. Cover and cook on low setting for 5 hours.  Serve over cauliflower rice.

 

 

Taco Stuffed Avocados with Adobe Sauce

  • taco4 avocados, sliced in half and pitted
  • 1 package of ground turkey (or 1 lb ground beef)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salsa

 

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cook turkey in a skillet until brown (add taco seasoning for extra flavor).  Place ground turkey and shredded cheese inside avocados and bake for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix sour cream with adobo sauce and pepper.  Dice tomatoes and cilantro and garnish your avocados with toppings and serve warm!

 

Farmers Market Frenzy

farmers market 1

Farmers Markets can be a wonderful way to find fresh, often organic, foods; along with other fun, unique goods. After going once, you’ll be hooked. But if you’ve never been, here are some great tips to follow!

First things first, you need to find a farmers market. You might be surprised how close one is to your home or work. Check out Local Harvest to see what’s near you!

 

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to shop at a farmers market!

Tip #1: Bring cash
Most farmers markets are cash only. While some might accept credit cards, it’s unlikely.

 

Tip #2: Timing
Timing is everything. If you want the biggest selection and freshest produce, arrive right at opening. Shopping later, however, allows you to barter with the vendors, most do not want to take home their products.

 

Tip #3: Check everything out first
Make a loop around the entire farmers market first. You don’t want to get to the end of the market, find something you’d love to try and have no cash left! As well, some of the vendors may be selling the same items, so don’t be afraid to price shop.

If you expect to be at the market for a while, make your larger purchases towards the end of your trip so you do not have to carry them around.

 

Tip #4: Be prepared
Vendors may not always have bags on hand, so it is best to come prepared with your own bags and containers. As well, it’s never a bad idea to have a cooler with ice in your vehicle to keep everything fresh; especially if you’ve got a long drive home or other places to stop.

 

Tip #5: Buy in season
You can get some of the best tasting in-season foods at farmers markets. Check out this great, frequently updated list from The Rapidian to see what is in-season when.

 

These are just a couple simple tips to get you through a farmers market. You’d be surprised by the fun items you can find and great deals on foods you frequently purchase at the grocery store.  Plus, if you have kids, they’ll LOVE walking around, talking with farmers and learning new things.
Not sure what “organic” means or why you should purchase organic? Check out our blog “What’s up with this “organic” food?” for helpful information.

 

Quick and healthy on the go!

onthegoWe live in a go-go-go world and it can be tough to not fall into the fast food grab and go life. But sometimes that’s all we have time for. So, we are arming you with tips to make educated decisions when you’re traveling and on the go.

At Allegro, we focus on the 80/20 rule. That means 80 percent of your nutrition should be clean, wholesome and natural foods; whole grains, protein, vegetables and fruits. While 20 percent is what we call life. The 20 percent is a birthday party, an unplanned night out, going out for pizza with friends, etc.

Below are great tips for eating at a restaurant, fast food chain and tips on prepping for on the go days and trips.

 

 

Restaurants

Here are some great tips to consider BEFORE heading out.

  • Do your research ahead of time
  • Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you need to eat it
  • Start with something healthy
  • Order first so you don’t get swayed by what others are ordering
  • Be specific. You are the customer!
  • Balance your plate – if you’re going to have a cheeseburger then opt for side salad instead of fries
  • Split your meal with someone or ask for a to-go box when the meal comes out
  • Slow down and watch portions

Fast Food Chains

Here are some great options at many common fast food chains. When reviewing choices, the parameters we set included the following:  500 calories or less, around 10 grams of protein, lower sodium, low sugar and no trans-fat.

  • Subway
    • 6 in. turkey loaded up with veggies no mayo, whole wheat bread – 390 calories
  • Chipotle
    • Burrito bowl with steak, black beans, fajita veggies, salsa and lettuce – 460 calories
    • Salad w/romaine lettuce, brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies and salsa – 430 calories
  • Panera Bread – most of salads great choices but dressings can add more sodium/sugar (ask for dressings on the side or do half of it.
    • Roasted turkey and avocado BLT sandwich, whole sandwich – 510 calories
    • Power Kale Cesar with chicken, half dressing – 340 calories
  • Jimmy Johns – best options if you customize your orders
    • Big John: roast beef, no mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado spread – 380 calories
    • Veggie sub on French bread: sub mayo for avocado spread – 500 calories
    • Unwich – sub mayo for avocado
  • Wendy’s
    • Small chili – 300 calories
    • Add on baked potato – 170 calories (no butter!)
  • Chick-fil-A
    • Grilled chicken cool wrap – 340 calories
    • Grilled chicken sandwich – 320 calories
  • Taco Bell
    • Shredded chicken burrito – 400 calories
    • Cantina power burrito (veggie) – 430 calories

Packable Options

Here are some great on the go options for busy days or when you’re traveling. We also included a few fun ways to get your daily nutrients and water in!

  • Pre packaged fruits, vegetables and salads to go
  • Grab and go foods
    • Lara bar, kind bar, 100-calorie packs of walnuts or almonds, dried apple slices, a healthy trail mix or make your own (dark chocolate chips, almonds, dried cranberries)
  • Carry a water bottle. Make it fun and fresh! Throw some cucumber, mint, lime or raspberries
  • We need four to five servings of vegetables a day. Here are some great, easy to pack vegetables: cherry tomatoes, pepper strips, cucumber, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower
    • Spice it up:
      • Greek yogurt with balsamic vinegar
      • Hummus (individual packets too)
      • Low fat ranch dressing
      • Laughing cow cheese

Eating healthy on the go CAN fit into a healthy lifestyle if you plan ahead for it as best you can; arming yourself for success.  For more great tips on nutrition, fitness and more check out our podcast channel – Health and Wellness with Allegro Coaching!

Five fitness games to incorporate with your kids!

On Sunday night Coach Kendra hosts Kid/Parent Urban Adventure Training. Classes include intervals of cardio and strength appropriate for ages 5 - 12 years old!

On Sunday night Coach Kendra teaches Kid/Parent Urban Adventure Training at Wilcox Park in Grand Rapids. Classes include intervals of cardio and strength appropriate for ages 5 – 12 years old! Sign up at allegrocoaching.com under “mindbody” to reserve your spot!

There never is a dull moment, especially when you are a parent. No matter the stage of your children, you are constantly preparing dinners, doing laundry, taxiing them from one event to the next, helping with homework and the list goes on. To fit exercise in on TOP of all this can feel a bit daunting. For most parents, we don’t have the extra time to get to the gym. Instead of making it be an excuse, consider doing your exercise program WITH your kids. Yes, I said it and will say it again…..workout with your kids! No matter the age of your children, the most valuable gift you can give them is the gift of time. Exercise doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be planned out, just get outside and start moving!

Every summer we run a FREE Family Bootcamp at Wilcox Park in Eastown. All you have to do is sign up on Mindbody. The kids range anywhere from 5 – 12 years old it is always a blast! It’s been scorching hot out but that hasn’t stopped us from having fun! I wanted to share five of my favorite workout games so you too can get your kids outdoors and enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

 

*Extreme Duck-Duck Goose: Yes, extreme means more movement, so here’s how it works! Everyone stands in a large circle, facing outside. The person who is “it” goes around the circle and taps everyone’s head, saying “DUCK”. When you get tagged, you can make that person do 5 squats (or 5 push-ups). When they choose the “GOOSE”, the person who is tagged will run in the opposite direction as the person who tagged them, rushing to see who can get to the open spot faster. To make it even more extreme, have everyone hold a plank position until they get tagged!

*Hungry Hungry Hippos: Who doesn’t love this loud and obnoxious game? Best if run in a large open space/backyard and you just need 5 small buckets and 20-40 small balls. Set the bucket with all the balls in the center of the field and divide the family into 4 equal teams. (If you have a smaller family, just do 2-3 teams). Make sure the distance between the teams and the center bucket is equal. When the game starts, the first person on each team sprints to the bucket, takes out 1 ball, and brings it back to their home base (bucket). The game keeps playing until all the balls are gone; the team with the most balls wins! Talk about some cardio competition!

*Blob Tag: By far, the most popular game requested by kids this summer! This is a great game to do at the park, at the beach or in your backyard! (But you definitely want to invite the neighbor kids over!) Groups of two link arms to become “one” unit. The team that is “IT” tries to tag all the other groups. When a group gets tagged, they must link arms with the “IT” and continues to grow into a “blob”. This is a fun game to teach teamwork and communication!

*Animal Pentathlon: This game can be played indoors or outside, you just need to be creative!

Choose 4-5 animal moves and create a relay-race style event, where each kid must complete all 5 moves and run back to the starting line first. Depending on the age of your children, you can have them do a smaller number of reps or added rounds to complete. For example, older kids could do this 3-4 rounds through, from start to finish. Here are five animal moves you can use at home: bear crawl, crabwalk, donkey kicks, gorilla walks and penguin waddles are just a few ideas to try!

*Summer Olympics: This is a great game to play year round, indoors or outdoors! Plus, if your kids are competitive, this is a great way to rally up the energy. Come up with 4-5 stations…long jump, hurdles, sprints, dribbling, shooting/passing, anything works! Have each child choose a country to represent and then have them go through each station at least once to practice. For the next round, kids are competing to see who is the fastest or who can get the most reps in over a period of time. Feel free to add basic movements in, such as push-ups, crunches on the stability ball or bicep curls. At the end, have a final awards ceremony for the team that earns GOLD!

As parents, one of the most critical roles is to instill healthy habits with our children. This means anything from serving vegetables at every meal (the colored kind), rewarding behavior with non-food options, setting healthy technology boundaries or getting our kids to exercise. Plus, it’s a way for YOU to be healthy and lead by example….the best form of learning there is!

Try out these workouts soon and let us know how they went!

Picky Eaters: A Parent’s Dilemma

Dealing with a picky eater can be at the top of the list for most frustrating fights as a parent. As someone who has made health and wellness their life, this was a challenge I did not see coming.  Convincing a grown adult that junk food is bad for them is tough, but trying to get my kids to eat well can be even more of a challenge. Having a 4 and 2 year old has opened my eyes to a whole new world of food challenges.   Here are some important lessons I’ve learned, which should help you guide your kids to eat better.

Make a schedule. Children need to eat every three to four hours: three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids.  If you plan for these, your child’s diet will be much more balanced. In turn, they will be less cranky because they won’t be famished.  Always have snacks with you!  I keep a cooler in the car when we are out and keep things like carrots, yogurt and water so we don’t have to rely on fast food.

Plan dinners.  If thinking about a weekly menu is too daunting, start with two or three days at a time.  A good dinner doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be balanced.

Don’t become a short order cook.  This is the one thing I took a stand on before I had kids because I saw how exhausting it was on other parents.  I prepare one meal for everybody.  Children often mimic their parents’ behavior, so one of these days, they’ll eat most of the food I serve them. Remember, most picky eaters are made, not born.

Bite your tongue.  As hard as this may be, try not to comment on what or how much your kids are eating.  Be as neutral as possible.  Remember, you’ve done your job as a parent by serving balanced meals; your kids are responsible for eating them.  If you play food enforcer- saying things like “Eat your vegetables or you can’t leave the table” – your child will only resist.

Introduce new foods slowly.  Children are new-food phobic by nature.  I tell my kids that their taste buds sometimes have to get used to a flavor before they’ll like the taste.  A little hero worship can work wonders too.  My son refused to eat broccoli until I told him that hockey players always eat their broccoli because it helps them skate faster…he certainly eats his broccoli now!

Dip it.  If your kids won’t eat vegetables, experiment with dips.  My kids love hummus, salsa and yogurt-based dressings.

Make mornings count.  This is where that meal planning comes in handy.  Mornings can be crazy. If you prepare a big batch of breakfast burritos on the weekend and freeze them, you have breakfast for the whole week.  It’s delicious, nutritious and easy.

Get kids cooking.  If your children become involved in choosing or preparing meals, they’ll be more interested in eating what they’ve created.  Take them to the store and let them choose produce for you.  If they’re old enough, allow them to help cut up vegetables and fruit.

Cut back on junk.  Remember, you, not your kids, are in charge of the foods that enter the house.  By having fewer junk foods around, you’ll force your children to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Allow treats.  Having less healthy foods occasionally keeps them from becoming forbidden-and thus more appealing.  We call candy, juice, and cookies “sometimes” foods.  I generally don’t buy cereal, but I let my kids have it when we visit family and they know it’s a treat.

Have fun.  The more creative the meal is, the greater the variety of foods my kids eat.  We make smiley face pancakes and give foods silly names.  Anything mini is always a hit too.

Be a role model.  If you’re constantly on a diet or have erratic eating habits, your children will grow up thinking that this sort of behavior is normal.  Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you’re sending.  Trust your body to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full and your kids will learn to do the same.

Adjust your attitude.  Realize that what your kids eat over time is what matters.  Having popcorn at the movies or eating an ice cream sundae are some of life’s real pleasures.  As long as you balance these times with smart food choices and physical activity, your children will be fine.

Best of luck,

Coach Amanda O.