Updated: Feb 23, 2022
I recently saw a post from a friend discussing just how difficult it is right now to be a full time working parent. Like so many, she is trying to hold down her job, school her kids AND keep the family eating healthily.
I can only imagine how hard it is. I imagine that trying to juggle work meetings with teaching kids things you are not trained to teach, all the while trying to stop them from having a melt down, leaves parents wiped out at the end of each day. The last thing anyone would have the energy for afterwards is cooking up a healthy family meal. I think the first thing to say is that, right now, that's okay. This is an impossible situation and if eating some convenience foods allows you to have a little bit of respite at the end of the day, then that will do more for yours and your families overall wellbeing than anything else.
We can eat all the kale and drink all the green juices in the world, but if we are chronically stressed, we won't be well and we won't be able to show up for those we love. So first things first, try and take some time every day to calm your nervous system down. It is physiologically impossible for our bodies to be in stress, or 'fight or flight' mode, when we are breathing properly. The problem is that most of us are not breathing properly - we tend to hold our breath or take very shallow breaths. But practising just 2 minutes of deep, belly breathing each day can make a difference to your wellbeing. However busy you are, I promise that it is possible to find 2 minutes! The hard bit is in making it a habit. Try breathing in for 4 counts and out for 7 for 2 minutes every morning as soon as you wake up. Or make it the first thing you do as you get up from your computer to prepare lunch. Keeping it at the same time every day will help your brain remember it and keeping it short makes it manageable. You can even practice it whilst you're standing in the supermarket queue!
Now, on to the food. It is true that when we eat well we feel less sluggish, we sleep better and we have more energy for the day ahead. When we are feeling low or stressed we tend to crave high sugar or refined carb foods because we are looking for the addictive hit we get when we eat them. The problem is that that feeling doesn't last long. After an hour or so our blood sugar crashes, leaving us feeling tired and in need of more of the same foods. I discuss this dynamic further in my blog "Stress: the silent threat to our health".
I find that for most people, snacking is the hardest thing to shift. Firstly, we are surrounded by not-so-great choices that are purposely placed at the eye line of children in the shops (so no wonder parents are continuously nagged for chocolate)! Also, I don't know about you, but when the 3pm slump comes during a stressful day, only something sweet will do for me. So, it's important that we have nutritious snacks to hand that are comforting, easy and convenient.
With that in mind, I am sharing some ideas for delicious, healthy, stress-free snacking. These recipes take no more than 10 minutes to make! But my biggest tip is to prep ahead so you don't even need to think about it during the week. Take 1 hour on a Saturday or Sunday to make up big batches of snacks and freeze them or store them in airtight jars for use over the next few weeks.
Healthy and Stress Free Snacks
Every Sunday I cut up a load of carrots and cucumber and I make a massive batch of hummus. Hummus is easy to make as you can see from my recipe below. BUT it's equally easy to buy, so if you haven't the time, just buy a super sized pack from your local shop.
Another great prep-ahead option. There are tonnes of flavour variations and they literally take 10 minutes to make. Just whizz the ingredients in a blender, roll up into balls and store in the freezer. Try my chocolate orange balls for a snack which is full of nutrition whilst also being sweet and satisfying. I like them best eaten straight from the freezer!
Rice crackers & toppings
You can top these with anything! Nut butters, hummus, cheese, tuna, eggs... But my favourite is peanut butter and banana slices.
A fantastic high protein snack in which you can hide lots of veggies! Again, feel free to mix up the flavours depending on what you like most.
This one couldn't be easier - just chuck it all together. It's another great 'sweet' option which offers lots of nutrition and no refined sugars.
A great alternative for crisps or other less nutritious packaged snacks. Again, feel free to mix up the flavours but this sweet chilli variety is a particular favourite in my household!
As always, I love to hear your thoughts and how you get on with my recipes! Please comment below :)