As an integrative physician and mom of two children under the age of four, I spend lots of time contemplating and experiencing the juggling act that exists when one tries to create a balanced life. It's a tough gig in this stressful world! Here are some of the mom hacks that I use to keep my family nourished and sane.
1. Make it a rule: everyone eats the same thing.
I suggest that families eat the same meal. If anyone in your family has a food sensitivity or a food restriction, I recommend that the entire family adopt the prescribed diet. That way, the person with a special food need feels supported and empowered on their journey to health.
2. Keep recipes you love in a handy box.
Do you see tons of recipes online that you just love? I do. And then, regardless of whether I bookmark them or not, I forget about them and find myself wondering what to prepare for dinner on a regular basis. Enter the recipe box. After I introduced this into our life, things got easier. Give yourself this gift to live on your kitchen counter. (You can even get creative and use a shoebox that you decorate with your kids.)
Simply copy or print and paste the recipe that appeals to you on a 5x7 index card, laminate it (if you're so inclined) and throw it in the box. Aim to find at least 10 recipes that you love per season.
3. Plan your meals at least a week in advance.
Now that you have your recipe box, you can pull out a handful of recipes that you love and plug them into a weekly planner. I use an old-school paper planner to do this and integrate all of my meal planning into our family calendar. You can also plug your planned meals into your google calendar or a spreadsheet. Just find a system that works for you and stick with it.
4. Invest in a deep freezer and cook large amounts of food at once.
For less than $200, you can purchase a deep freezer, and it's an incredibly handy appliance to have around. Once you have a set of solid recipes that your family enjoys, double or triple each recipe that you cook, and freeze the extra portions for future meals.
5. Eat the rainbow.
Make a rainbow chart to get encourage your kids to eat fruits and veggies from all of the color families on a daily basis. Reward your kids with stickers and fun prizes when they eat the rainbow on a regular basis.
6. Express gratitude every day.
In our family, we go around the table every night before dinner and share what we are grateful for each day. If we ever forget, my daughter is quick to remind us that we need to share our gratitudes! It's easy to forget all of the wonderful things that life offers in our harried world, so take time to practice gratitude every day.
7. Exercise with your family.
If you can carve time for yourself to get a workout in on your own, that's great! I find, however, that that time is often the first to be axed once you have kids, so just do it together and have fun with it. Run sprints with your preschooler, garden with your little ones, put the kids in a stroller and go for a family walk.
8. Aim for an early bed time.
If you are nursing a little one, or have a toddler that wakes up in the middle of the night, plan for the worst. Get to bed as early as you can — lights out at 9 or 9:30 and aim to give yourself at least nine hours before setting your alarm.