Tidy Up Your Diet: Family Edition

What happens after you have tidied your kitchen using the KonMari method? Often my clients are excited to make a home-cooked meal inspired by their newly organized space. Many of them have revived their love for baking or started to put more effort into healthy eating. These examples just show that your surroundings can affect your behavior, and you can receive unexpected benefits from tidying up.

Unfortunately, the images of families cooking a meal and sit together for dinner are becoming more of an ideal scene from the movies instead of reality. Picking eating, too much processed foods, skipping meals, eating too late or too fast, are all symptoms of not making nourishing our bodies a priority. Poor diet leads to poor sleep, lower productivity, more anxiety, and eventually illnesses.

This past year our family has experienced many elderly members suffering from various diseases, each taking turns to the hospital. It made me take a look closer at what I’m feeding my family and how our diet is affecting our long-term health. The documentaries I’ve watched and articles or books I’ve read only left me more confused. There is so much information out there all claiming to be the solution to keep you healthy. However, for each one there’s a contradicting point of view. How can one source tell you to eat more fruits and another says no fruits at all? The plant-based diet is great but there’s also a long list of “nightshade vegetables” that are said to cause you harm. The mostly meat and natural fat diet makes sense on paper but feels wrong in practice. So how does one decide?

Just like many other areas in my life, I turn to the KonMari method for help. I started out with a vision: I picture the type of food I want to see on my plate that I consider healthy. I see fresh, colorful food in dishes and bowls that I love. Simple meals that are easy to prep and easy to clean up. Ideally, I’d like to make one meal that the whole family can enjoy instead of being a short order cook. I want my kids to try new natural foods and less processed ones. I’d like to be able to prep food in advance so I have more time to be with my family, or involve them in the cooking process.

Because our family doesn’t have any dietary restrictions, I set some basic criteria I wanted to meet:

  • Drastically reduce our sugar intake
  • Reduce our carbs
  • Reduce our meats to the minimal and replace with fish and eggs from responsible sources
  • Reduce our dairy to a minimal
  • Increase fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal, choosing organic when possible
  • Switch snacks to healthy, little to no processed choices

Once I have a focus, I decluttering our pantry and fridge and removed anything that didn’t align with my vision and the basic requirements listed above. Some of the food that we once stock up on but now removed are yogurt, string cheese, granola bars, applesauce, regular pasta, deli meats, sugary cereal and packaged sweets. These were convenient and the kids love it, but they provided little nutritional value and very high in sugar, salt, and carbs.

I also made some changes to where I shop and how I prepare food for my family to replace some of our old favorites. Online shopping for our pantry allows me to manage my time, and make more educated choices by comparing labels. Some websites have the ability to keep a list of the items we love or has auto-ship settings to help save us time and stay in budget.

Here’s how we’ve transformed our meals:

Breakfast

We bought a cold press juicer and started making juices for breakfast. Since we compost too (we freeze the scraps and empty it in the compost trashcan once a week), any vegetables such as broccoli stalks and ends of the asparagus are saved and put in the juicer before it goes to the compost. I always add a lemon with the skin on, a piece of fresh ginger, and only use a little bit of fruit to add some sweetness. The juices are delicious and usually keep me full until 10:30.

Some mornings I’ll make a breakfast wraps.  I scrambled the eggs with some riced cauliflower which makes the eggs more fluffy and it’s another added vegetable. A tiny bit of cheddar, a handful of spinach, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. These are super quick and easy, also very portable if there’s not enough time to eat it right away.

For my boys, they like to eat their cereal dry. So I have found some low sugar options that they can serve themselves before I get out of bed. Then they’ll either have homemade mini chocolate pancakes or waffles using the Bob’s Red Mill 10-Grain mix or muffins which we make a big batch on Sundays. I keep them in the freezer and toast them before serving. I also include a piece a fruit with their breakfast. I often will find simple recipes and alter it slightly to use mini chocolate chips and no added sugar.

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Lunch

I usually have lunch by myself. If I have time, I’ll make a vegetable soup. Or a quick salad with avocado and lots of greens. I often use hummus as my dressing or a simple dressing made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A sprinkle of chopped nuts gives the salad a nice crunch. To make it more filling, I might add some roasted sweet potato with some rosemary and olive oil.

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For the kids, bread is something I know they’ll always eat and easy to pack. The store bought bread concerns me because of the preservatives, so I started making bread at home. There are some easy recipes including a no-knead dough. Or if you have a bread machine, you can just add the ingredients and let it do all the work. As you become more experimental, you can try mixing in flax and chia seeds for added nutrition.  Also, instead of always making a loaf, you can use the bread machine to prepare the dough and then shape the batch into dinner rolls, bagels, or flatbread. Bake them, let them cool, then freeze to use throughout the week. This is also something I enjoy doing with the boys to make the bread into any shape they want. If making your own bread seems like a hassle, try to buy bread made from a bakery instead of the packaged ones. The key here is portion size. Dinner rolls are good for sliders instead of a whole burger. Mini Bagels are good for making little cheese pizzas.

I also will mix cooked quinoa into my ground beef. It absorbs the flavor and keeps the meatballs moist. I’ll mix a batch, cook some into mini patties and some into meatballs. Let them cool then freeze half of it. This reduced the amount of red meat we are eating dramatically, but you don’t feel like you are giving up on anything. I’ll add the meatballs to pasta (I only get pasta with whole wheat, with added vegetable, or made from chickpeas or reduced carb options), I add meatballs to salads, and vegetable soups. The kids will eat them on their own. And one batch can last 4-6 meals.

Dinner

When we are not having bread with our meal, I will make tacos using romaine lettuce for the shell.

We still eat meat, but I only “sprinkle” diced chicken or shredded beef over salads or pasta.

I also like to drizzle some Bragg’s amino acid over salmon and bake it in the oven. It’s quick, so delicious, and the whole family loves it.

I try to maintain 70-80% of the meal with vegetables on the plate. If that seem difficult for your children, start with increasing what vegetable they already eat. For example, my boys love baby carrots. I started with baby carrots and some fruits. I then introduce them to cucumbers with a tiny bit of salt or salad dressing. Start with a little piece the size of a quarter. They may surprise you and happy to try more. If not, it’s not too much stress on them to try a new food. Once they develop a taste for it, reduce the portion of the fruit to have more carrots and cucumber. Keep introducing new vegetables one at a time and reduce the fruit. It’s a slow process, but my 9 and 4 year olds now will eat kale, asparagus, celery, bell pepper, and we have a big salad at least 5 nights of the week.

Panko crust (Japanese bread crumbs) on vegetables has made it easier for my kids to try new greens. Panko on Asparagus is one of their favorites now. Cauliflower and broccoli, green beans work well too. It takes a little bit extra work to make because you need to first cover it with an egg mixture, or I personally like to use mayonnaise (Primal Kitchen makes a healthier option with avocado oil and organic herbs) then coat it with Panko. We will sprinkle a little bit of grated parmesan cheese too. These are always baked and the kids always ask for seconds.

A little squeeze of lemon juice over kale or broccoli sautéd with garlic gives the flavor enough kick that even my picky eaters love.

Dessert and snacks

It’s hard to avoid the craving for snacks. It may take a couple taste testing to find the right kind of snacks to replace the Doritos and potato chips. But healthier options are out there. I try to always include some baby carrots or cucumber slices next to some chips or pretzels. And for dessert, homemade popsicles are great. Try puree some beets with berries to make a frozen pop or chocolate pudding pop made from blended avocado and cocoa.

Any baked dessert that’s homemade and substituted with natural sugar or sweet alternatives like dates or bananas are fun to make and better than anything from a package.

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Here are some organizational tips to help support healthy eating:

  • Don’t pack up your pantry and fridge. The easier you can see and access the food you have, the more likely you will cook something yourself and have control over what you put in your body.IMG_9135
  • Use glass containers with airtight lids to store your food. This will preserve the freshness of your food, you can reheat it easily right from the container and not have another dish to wash. Since they are stackable, your fridge will be more organized.
  • Use dishes you love to hold your food. A nice presentation will make your meal even more enjoyable.
  • Put your vegetables in water! They’ll look like beautiful bouquets and stay fresh longer.
  • Cut away the covers the fruits or egg containers so you can easily access the contents.

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To save time, stay on budget, and have a lot of information about the food I’m buying, here are a few of my favorite online stores to order food from:

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Thrivemarket.com has a wide selection of organic, non-GMO brands you love at great prices. We fill up our pantry using their monthly auto-ship program. We’ve replaced all of our snacks to more natural, low sodium, low sugar options. Some of our favorites are organic quinoa elbow pasta, rice chips in fiesta lime, and Rosemary Naan Chips. They have also started selling farmer’s market meat or seafood boxes which I’m interested to try.

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ButcherBox.com delivers humanely raised meat with no antibiotics or hormones to your door. They offer monthly plans for either customized or curated box that can make 24-30 servings. Each serving comes individually wrapped and frozen. I find this very convenient so I only have to thaw what I want to cook. Usually, I’ll move the package to the fridge the day before, marinated it after it’s thawed, and cook it for dinner. You can taste that it’s quality meat and all of their packagings is recyclable.

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Instacart.com depending on your area can deliver food from Whole Foods, CVS, Petco, and even Costco to your door. I use this service for getting organic fruits and vegetable from Costco. We eat a lot of salads now and the boys don’t go a day without eating a handfuls of baby carrots. We always get a large container of organic spinach, bag of avocado, lemons, asparagus, and fancy mixed nuts. I also love their single serve of organic hummus.

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The kitchen is where the magic happens in our home. We turn simple ingredients into amazing dishes that nourishes our body.  We find joy in the experience of cooking, and conversations we have during meal times. Even baking with our children can become families traditions. I hope you’ll try some of the tips I’ve shared in this post and be inspired to tidy up your diet for a joyful and healthy life. Bon Appetit!

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