I am a busy working mom, and like everyone, I want and need to eat good food for health, energy and well-being. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I also want to set a good example for my members and clients. But I also really love to eat. I love to try new foods and share food with others, and it’s one of the ways I show my family that I love them.
Gone are the days of leisurely grocery shopping and sipping a glass of wine while chopping and sautéing. Now I work until 5:30 p.m. or later most nights, and then the kids have sports, which means we have a very small window in which to prepare and scarf down supper.
Like most families, we are on a budget, which means that eating out every night just isn’t in the cards. So how can we feed our families healthy food with time and budget limitations?
SUCCEED TO PLAN AND PLAN TO SUCCEED
The key for me is careful planning of all meals and snacks. I make a thorough meal plan and grocery list on Friday while I’m eating breakfast. I attempt to get all my groceries for the week on Saturday and cook in bulk for a couple of hours on Sunday.
Things that are great to make in bulk are soups, stews, crockpot meals, roasted veggies, chicken or other meat to be used later in other dishes. If I stock the refrigerator with pre-cooked food, we can all grab something on those busy nights. I also have leftovers to take to work for snacks and lunch.
If cooking on Sundays or dinner seven days a week doesn’t fit into your schedule, finding healthy prepared food on a budget is possible. Let’s explore what our local grocery stores and restaurants have to offer for quick and healthy food to take out.
HEALTHY FOOD ON THE GO
I discovered the Pantry at Catering By Design a couple of months ago. They have fresh as well as frozen foods, including salads, entrées, hors d’oeuvres and even dessert options. They are perfect for busy families, young professionals and empty nesters who don’t need to cook for a crowd anymore.
Owner Kathy Windt says that some favorites on the menu are their soups (tomato soup was flying off the shelves when I interviewed her), rosemary scented chicken and their new Indian flavors like chicken curry. Kids love their four-cheese macaroni as well as their lasagna and other pasta dishes. Windt says, “I am proud of the quality and flavor of our made-from-scratch foods. Our menu items are approachable for any palate.” The Pantry offers an annual Valentine’s menu for two in February and corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.
Another fantastic option for quick and healthy food is Tonic Local Kitchen and Juice Bar. Owner Nicci Sylvester is committed to sharing her love for delicious food combined with the very best locally sourced ingredients and nutrient-dense foods. I recommend Tonic to my personal training clients who are looking for food on the go. You can take out anything on their menu, and they also have family-sized meals that you can pre-order. Enjoy salads, sandwiches, breakfast served all day long and their own family recipes for traditional Eastern European foods.
People’s Food Co-op is another great choice for those looking for a quick and healthy meal. They have a fabulous salad bar and hot bar with a variety of foods for all diets.
PROTEIN + PRODUCE = HEALTHY SNACKS AND MEALS
I encourage my clients to plan their meals and snacks around veggies, and veggies are cheap. Buy raw veggies like carrots, broccoli, snap peas and cauliflower, and have cherry tomatoes on-hand as well. Wash and cut them yourself to save money. Buy precut and washed to save time. You can eat veggies as a snack in between meals or as an “appetizer” before your lunch or dinner.
I tell clients to include a protein and a produce for each snack and meal. Hummus is a perfect way to add some protein to your veggie snack or appetizer. You can make your own, which is very inexpensive. Pre-made hummus in a variety of flavors is available at grocery stores these days. Tonic sells a beautiful veggie tray with their homemade hummus.
Make 2017 a great year for food for you and your loved ones. Make delicious and healthy eating quick and easy so you can feel great and have enough energy for your busy life.
Emily Watkins, owner of Empowered Wellness & Fitness Studio, helps clients make health a priority by finding easy and enjoyable ways to eat and exercise. Get some of her favorite exercises at empoweredwellnessfitness.com/recipes.