In a perfect world, I would be buying all organic groceries, raising our own chickens and getting our dairy products delivered from a local creamery, feeding our family the best of the best.
Let’s be REAL for a minute here. Eating healthy can be a struggle.
There are so many variables at play; picky eaters, time constraints and tight budgets, just to name a few. But with some planning, you can come up with a meal plan that you can be proud of.
This is how we eat healthy in real life.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
80% healthy, whole foods and 20% treats. It took some adjusting but my family really does well with this. Sticking to whole foods and not food-like products keeps everyone satisfied longer, even when eating smaller portions.
When we have treats I pretty much let everyone have whatever they want, within reason. We practice portion control but I try not to make things completely off limits (unless there is an allergy). I worry that having too many hard limits around food will cause an unhealthy relationship with it in the future.
Conventional Produce vs. No Produce
Buying all organic food can be expensive. Overall, I know organic is the healthier option but when you are on a limited income it can be prohibitive.
One thing to keep in mind is that conventional produce is better than NO produce. You would be missing out on fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals if you were to skip them altogether.
Also, if you want to buy organic but are on a tight budget try sticking to the dirty dozen and clean 15. Don’t forget to watch your sales flyers too! Major grocery stores usually put a good amount of their organic produce on sale each week.
Nutrition Education and Limited Snacking
We have a couple picky eaters here. Educating our kids on proper nutrition has really helped to expand their picky palates. Knowing proper portions and having daily guidelines for balanced meals really helps them make good choices.
A fun little thing we do to encourage the kids to try new things is allowing each child to pick out one NEW fruit or veggie each week. The catch is that they HAVE to try it. One of the greatest moments was realizing 2 out of 3 kids liked brussel sprouts.
Another key to healthy eating in real life is to limit snacking to one time a day. If everyone is always grazing, come mealtime they are NOT going to want to eat what is being served. Food will be wasted and you will feel pressured to throw in the “healthy eating towel” 😉
Keep it Simple
Meals don’t have to be complicated to be tasty. It took me quite a long time to realize that my family prefers simple meals. I love to cook so this made me a little sad at first. But really, it was a blessing in disguise for two reasons.
The first being, our grocery bill went down a bit since I wasn’t making 10-15 ingredient recipes anymore!
Second, I was inspired to get creative in the kitchen to make simple, healthy meals that everyone will eat.
Plan and Prep Ahead
I used to think meal planning was silly and a total waste of time.
When I first started trying to clean up our diet I found it very hard to make meals on the fly. Food was going bad and I was spending way too much time trying to figure out how to use the things I had bought.
I quickly learned that cooking real food meals from scratch takes a bit of planning. Not only does meal planning save me time, but a little money as well.
Another helpful tip is to prep some of your food for the week ahead of time. I like to cut up veggies, make a crockpot of chicken to shred and bake muffins for the week on Sundays.
The shredded chicken and the muffins freeze well if you don’t think your family will eat them quick enough.
Give Yourself Grace
Changing the way your family eats is HARD. Sticking to a tight budget is tough as well. Trust me, I know.
Just remember that slow and steady wins the race. Don’t beat yourself up if you end up going through a drive-thru every now and then.
Things happen and life can get in the way of our goals sometimes, but it is really how you rebound from those setbacks that matter. Just get back on track at the next meal.