Monday, February 13, 2012

"Too Busy to Prepare Homemade Healthy Food" Needs Advice. Let's Help.

Good morning! I hope you all had a restful and fun weekend. I spend a lot of my weekend thinking (while I was cooking, of course!) about this e-mail that I received a few days ago from an HGK reader:

"Just checking back in for a little advice. I wrote you a few weeks ago. I was so enthused and have been eating all plant based food. Unfortunately, a lot of frozen Amy meals, and Whole food stuff that is prepared. So, I am gaining weight. Yikes!! I am bummed. 

I was hoping I could just get 'quick' stuff that I could grab on the run that was plant-based. Well, I see this isn't going to be a quick fix. I really was hoping for quick foods that won't stress me out with constant chopping, and time in the kitchen. 

Does the weight loss only come if you are following a plan and counting portion sizes of grains and starchy vegetables? Probably no pre-packaged tofu dishes from Whole Foods, right? 

I didn't want to have to put even more time into it with cooking AND planning out portion sizes, etc. I am sure it is the increased carbs that are doing it. Easy to grab a Cliff bar or Luna bar for a snack in the afternoon or breakfast on the run. But, lots of carbs. Eating big chunks of raw veggies on the run is not remotely appealing. Ugh. Are there any easy, low maintenance ways to get all I need on the run without all the fat and carbs?

 I could use some motivation. I was so excited. But now it's even more work with my husband wanting me to make sure he has something for almost every meal. And he isn't satisfied with just veggies and rice. I almost don't want him to eat all plant-based with me and go back to normal easy to prepare food for the kids. But, he wants to eat healthy, too. 

I need a chef. ;0) Is it worth it to find a nutritionist? Are the plant-based ones hard to find? If you have a moment, I would love to hear your comments. It sounds like you have been at this awhile with your family."

Here's some more pertinent information about this reader:
She has three children, all of which she home schools. They are age 8, 11 and 14. The reader is never home alone to do quiet meal preparation. About 6-10 hours per week are spent carpooling her kids.

Weekends are very busy with picking up [the house], running errands for school projects, sports events, church, and visiting family every Sunday. Sometimes she goes to the gym with her husband on Saturday morning, or a bike ride with her family. She occasionally gets together with friends, goes to a movie, or shopping. She also runs to the grocery store a few times a week.

What's my advice? Priorities and Healthy Fear

First, the issue of counting or measuring food. I do not count or measure anything on this plan, but I do avoid a long list of foods. Foods like Cliff Bars are on my "do not eat list." I have this expression, "Just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy." I learned how to properly read a nutrition label on packaged foods in the book The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn. That was a game changer for me. I saw that almost nothing in a package can be considered healthy. You can read more on that here.

Shopping at Whole Foods is a wonderful thing, but you do need to have a healthy level of skepticism when you go there. Most of what is being sold at Whole Foods is not on this plan. Stick to vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes most of the time. Tofu, tempeh and seitan are  fine, but not every day. For me, about once a week with those products is enough. I stick with huge salads, large bowls of soup, oatmeal for breakfast, green smoothies when I am in the mood, and other vegan dishes that are carefully prepared according to plan. 

I make all of our salad dressings from scratch. I only do this once a week. It's fast, easy and much healthier and cheaper than bottled salad dressings. I prepare large volumes of salad at one time so that I don't have to do that every day. I cook a huge pot of soup on the weekend and we eat it throughout the week and freeze some too. Same goes for other cooked vegan food. I have developed a ton of strategies, to lessen my time in the kitchen. I too am never at home without one child or another needing my attention. So it actually takes me twice as long to prepare anything as someone without small children. But I never let that stop me from getting healthy food prepared.

I get the feeling that your children's education is one of the highest priorities in your life. That is a beautiful and commendable thing. But what about their health and the health of you and your husband? How important is it to you that your family lives long and healthy lives? In my mind, that is at least equally as important as your children's education (I happen to take this stuff very seriously). In fact, I would like to propose that teaching your children about truly healthy food and the preparation of it on a day to day basis is more important than almost any traditional school subject. 

Would it be possible to weave this into their education? Do you get to chose the books that they read? Could you and your oldest children read Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman? Or Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn? Your 8 year old might be able to read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

How about engaging your children in the actual food preparation once they have a basic understanding of the importance of avoiding all processed food? Again, is there a way to make it part of their curriculum? Could the kids be responsible for more household chores while you cook? Could your older two do their own laundry and pick-up the house? You are going to have to get creative!

You don't need a nutritionist. But what I think you need is a healthy fear of the future. Read everything you can about plant based nutrition. Make it one of the highest priorities in your life. You will never regret it.

You don't have to do it all at once. Let go of perfection, it is the enemy of the good. Just start by doing one good thing for the health of your family every day. You'll be surprised where that takes you.

I could go on and on, but I have to start making my kid's lunches! HGK reader, I know you can do this! Give it time to become a normal part of your life and NEVER EVER give up.

What's your advice?
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