Authored by Daphne Oz, MasterChef Junior television host and host for The Dish on Oz, Mom Brain podcaster and mom of four.
Becoming a first-time mom is the most exciting, rewarding and challenging thing I have ever done. We are indeed superwomen, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about taking care of ourselves. Compromising our health means compromising the love and care everyone around us gets – you deserve to feel great, too!
I’m juggling my television hosting gigs on MasterChef Junior and The Dish on Oz, recording my podcast Mom Brain (have a listen next time you want a buddy in your ear to keep you company on this wild parenting journey), and handling my kids’ needs as well as my husband’s and my own. I know I don’t always get it right and I learn something new every day, but there are a couple habits I have developed that have helped me keep my energy up, make time for the moments that matter, and enjoy the ride! Here are a few of my favorite hacks to help keep our personal wellness top of mind so we can continue to take on anything motherhood throws at us! (Or up on us, for that matter.)
- Have A Plan – Creating a plan adds more structure and lets us maximize our day so we have more time to be (and be present) with our kids. It also lets us make better decisions – or at least guide those decisions – using our rational brains, as opposed to when we’re fried, frazzled, or having to guess on the fly.
When it comes to preparing meals, planning can also help ensure the types of food we end up consuming are nutrient-rich foods we need, not just what’s super convenient. The easiest way I know how to do this is by keeping my pantry stocked with healthy essentials – grains and legumes, whole grain or alternative flour pastas, quality condiments, etc., so fast meals are ready to go and the only thing I might need to shop for is fresh produce or protein, which keeps me feeling inspired by what’s in season and looks great at the market today.
Another way I meal plan is by “eating a rainbow.” This can sound a little gimmicky, but it really helps make it easier to ensure you’re eating a variety of good, live enzyme-loaded food that’s going to help you feel better on the inside and look better on the outside. Have your family help brainstorm red foods for Monday (radishes, beets), orange foods for Tuesday (carrots, bell peppers), etc. Then, pick one or two of those foods to feature in your meals. It doesn’t have to be a strain on your normal meal plans, just a fun way to highlight the healthy options all around you.
- Cook Ahead of Time – I do the bulk of my cooking for things that take some time – grains, legumes, roasts, etc. – on Sunday night, and then look for ways to reuse throughout the week. I also make sure to do “two of everything” – e.g. I will roast two chickens at a time, or two trays of veggies, or bake two lasagnas. That way, we have one fresh to enjoy and one to use for great leftovers or freeze for later, but both are cooked at the same time.
Another tip is to look for proteins you can marinate ahead of time and have ready to go. Chicken breasts can be tossed with olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs or yogurt, citrus zest and curry powder and kept overnight in the refrigerator to be roasted or grilled the next evening. This step saves you time and adds tons of flavor. You can also easily shred and add leftovers to tacos or quesadillas that can be garnished with avocado, salsa and other family favorites. Consider swapping sour cream for low-fat Greek yogurt (no sugar added) and whole grain or alternative flour tortillas for traditional ones.
- Customization is Key – I refuse to prepare individual meals for each member of my family because I would never leave the kitchen! Since my kids are still small and spice-averse, I often do end up making them their own version of a meal, and then juicing it up for my husband and me. Usually, I start with the same base protein and a tray of roasted or steamed veggies and then use different sauces and toppings to customize for taste. The kids love their ketchup and sweet barbecue sauce. John and I love fresh, herby toppings, spicy chile oil, or a sweet and tangy mustard sauce. This way, I can make one recipe work for my family without sacrificing individual preferences.
My kids love to eat quinoa – I’ll go with it! It might have something to do with the fact I love to drizzle it with olive oil, feta cheese and salt, or throw in some plumped up raisins with almond milk and honey for a little bit of a sweeter take. It’s such a versatile grain and the texture is easy to chew so they like it with lots of things – even mixed with scrambled eggs and veggies like a healthier veggie fried rice (adults love this, too)! Since quinoa is a complete protein that acts like a grain, it’s a great way to satisfy picky eaters while giving them tons of essential nutrients they need.
One other trick I’ve found: kids love to dip! You can also cut down on cooking time by placing a whole cookie sheet filled with roasted veggies and tofu tossed with a little olive oil and seasoning in the oven. When you serve, give your kids individual dipping sauces to suit their tastes and let them go to town!
- Cut Through the Confusion – Let’s face it, it’s almost impossible to get the recommended daily servings of 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day, even if you only had your own meals to worry about. People always ask which supplements I use because the rows and rows of one-size-fits-all vitamins at the pharmacy or grocery store can feel overwhelming and who even knows if you’re picking up the right bottle?
Something I’m loving these days is Persona Nutrition. I took Persona’s free personalized nutrition assessment to uncover exactly what my specific body needs driven by my unique health history and goals (it also accounts for any medications you might be taking to prevent any adverse drug-nutrient side effects). Their team of doctors and nutritionists are on hand to answer any questions you might have, and they are a great resource to help ensure that your personalized plan can be easily customized for specific diets and/or allergies, activity level, pregnancy or breastfeeding, fertility, and a whole slew of other needs or concerns. They even help you figure out when to take your vitamins to let your body get the most out of them. But the best part is that they ship your personalized Persona vitamin packs right to your door every 28 days, making daily nutrition even more convenient. I love the fact that I can take my daily pack with me and tuck it in my purse without ever having to worry I’ve forgotten one of my essentials. I love this “no more, no less” approach to taking the highest quality supplements based on what my body actually needs – it’s one less thing to worry about.
- Stock Up on Healthy Fats – Not only do good fats add delicious flavor to your cooking, they are also essential to ensure healthy heart, eye and brain function. You may have heard about “essential fatty acids” – they’re essential because our bodies cannot make them, so we have to get them from our diets. Some classic sources are things like avocados, olive oil and nuts, which contain ALA omega-3 or fatty fish (think salmon and sardines) or a vegetarian source like algae which contain long-chain omega-3s, like DHA and EPA. Did you know that fish aren’t the original source of DHA and EPA omega-3s? It’s the algae in their diet that makes them a rich source of these healthy fats!
Not only does healthy fat offer fuel and flavor, it also fills you up! I love keeping a small bag of nuts and seeds in my purse or diaper bag to make it easy for me to snack well on the go. I sprinkle hemp hearts onto reduced fat yogurt with some fruit for a fast breakfast or snack. I love cut veggies with protein packed hummus or bean dip with a drizzle of olive oil. And, I always make sure to have some homemade salad dressing on hand in the fridge so a salad is easy to pull together (I’m a big believer in eating greens at every meal to improve digestion and flood your body with cleansing and energizing phytonutrients). Mashing avocado it onto some crackers or over arugula, herbs, lemon juice and salt makes for a deliciously easy, filling bite.
- Make Your Kids Proud to Be Good Eaters – We have a rule in our family right now that “big kids try everything once.” I set out a meal family style and let my older kids serve themselves so they can feel in control. I don’t fight with them as long as they try a bite of everything. It took a little getting used to, but now I see that they are really proud of themselves when they experiment and try something they didn’t think they would like. I noticed that they’re starting to love some of those foods now, too which is the best part!
I hope these ideas provide a nutritional boost for you and your family. You deserve to feel great! The most important trick when it comes to food and nutrition is to keep it easy and fun, and do what works for your family. For more of what I love and use, follow me at @DaphneOz on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear about your experience if you try any of these tips, so please tag m