Maintaining a healthy diet: The 5 most common challenges mums face


People who come to my cookery demos are constantly surprised by all the advise and tips I give during the demos. 


It isn't just a cookery class where you get to taste all the dishes as they are made but you learn so much about food and food preparation as well. 


I would like to share some of these tips and advice with you. 


Below I have listed some of the challenges people face when trying to follow a healthy diet and my suggestions on how to best overcome those challenges.


1. "Time - always putting everyone else first can mean that time for prepping (shopping & cooking) for healthy eating can suffer" 


It helps to be organised. You need to allocate time to plan, shop, prep and eat together where possible. It doesn't have to be a whole lot of time. Get input; I often ask each member of the family to suggest a meal they want and I do their choice on the day. If there are 4 or more in your family, that is more than half the week planned! If you have complainers (and who doesn't!?) then at least one person is very pleased each day and others learn to respect each other's choices!


Use technology: Try using Google Home (Alexa or Echo) so that you can build a shopping list as you work in the kitchen, hands-free and on your phone when you get to the shops!  Or do your shopping online.

Get help: I am all on for chores, allocate age-appropriate chores so the load is shared and you have more time for prep, e.g. putting the shopping away, setting table, tidying up after, empty dishwasher, bins etc.

Use Homework time: I find it useful to prep food while kids do their homework, that way I am present but they don't feel I am watching over them too much - and chopping keeps me from interfering too much!


2. "For me personally, it’s portion control – I’m always hungry, so it’s getting healthy foods that fill me up!"


Portion control can be challenging. If you are always hungry, make sure you have a varied diet including fats, protein, and carbohydrates. You are looking for almost half your plate to be vegetables, almost 1/4 protein and 1/4 carbohydrate with a small amount of fat. Always include protein in a snack, e.g toasted seeds or fruit with nut butter (try a medjool date stuffed with almond butter) or simply a handful nuts, that way they will take the edge off the hunger and keep you going between meals.


3. "Working Mums seem to struggle with evening meal preparation - not wanting to spend ages peeling & chopping veg, so quick cooking meals with minimum prep is what they want" 


I totally understand - I have two young children and busy schedules! I have a whole selection of meals I have tried and tested that are done in 20 minutes or less. I suggest you try one new dish each week and then it becomes manageable. The recipe for both my turkey burgers and seafood chowder are on my website. I also cooked both of these on Ireland AM. Kung Pao chicken is also another popular one! Slow cooking is also a great help, you can do prep the night before, or in the early morning if you are up and then dinner is ready when you walk in the door. Tray bakes are very handy; I usually do one per week, you can prep ahead and once there is someone to pop it in the oven dinner is hassle-free.



4. "Having a coffee and resisting the 'thing' that might go with it"


Oh, Temptation! I understand if you pop out for a coffee throughout the day it can be really tempting to have the 'thing' that goes with it: biscuit, chocolate sweet or, worse, thatlarge muffin or cake that is 'better value' to buy with your coffee than not buy! My advice would be to bring your own with you. If I am out for the day or am working at an office hub for the day, I simply bring power bars (please email me if you want the recipe) with me. They are small and nutritious and I know exactly what goes into them -  I enjoy them. Also, 85% chocolate is good to have if you want a chocolate fix - I know I can't eat more than one square at a go. Even better, try a green tea, so many health benefits, some caffeine and avoid the coffee...


5. "Availability/waste – catering for as few as 1 or as many as 6 impacts on certain options. Not everything freezes well and a last minute change to the plan I thought I had for the day can lead to food wastage – which I hate"


I hate waste too! If plans change and people aren't there for the meal:

a. Freeze
b. Keep for tomorrow or possibly the next day (perhaps freeze something planned for later in the week)
c. Use for lunch the next day
d. Repurpose in a soup/omelette/smoothie, depending on what it is! E.g. roast veg and beetroot make a lovely soup with some stock, leftover fish or veg can work well in an omelette the next morning, add veg into smoothies.

If you have any challenges that you would like help with, please email me!

Fiona is a chef, home economist and mum of two. Her passions lie in cooking and sailing. She runs healthy cookery demos from her home in Dublin and provides in-company healthy cooking demos with Fiona’s food for life. Check out her awesome recipes and blog here.

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