An Ode to Busy Moms

by in Nutrition Science

(and a few easy ideas for putting your own wellness on your “to do” list)

Yay for you, moms! You are out there doing your thing every day for your kiddos—making sure their needs are met in every aspect of their lives. You rock, and you most certainly deserve heaps of praise and thanks this Mother’s Day! (As do all the dads on Father’s Day.) But what about taking care of your own needs—especially those needs that fall under the “wellness” category? There are many aspects to wellness: things like getting nutritious food in the right amounts, getting enough sleep, a good amount of exercise and outdoor time, social time and even alone time for reflection, reading, journaling, meditating, etc. Professionally, I’m not qualified to address much beyond the food aspect, but I’m a mom of two (and I was a single mom for while there), I have my own business, have a house to keep up, have a couple pets to care for and I know how gosh-darn exhausting real life can be.

Colorful, flavorful, easy-prep dishes like this Succotash Salad are one way to care for yourself by getting more produce on your plate.

Between all of the things pulling at you for attention, it can sometimes feel like “personal wellness” is something that’s just for others, right? Ah, wellness… that’s that thing for people with more time, more money, easier lives, who are younger, fitter, more athletic, have a spouse to help pick up the slack (or at least have an every-other-week maid), right? Truly, I hear ya! If all you can manage some days is to just drag yourself to bed at a reasonable hour, that’s a victory! The last thing we need is another person telling us what we “should” do to stay healthy and making us feel bad about ourselves if we aren’t cramming every spare moment of our lives with wellness-related behaviors. So don’t worry, I won’t be doing that. I won’t be “telling” you to start juicing, cook every meal from scratch, always pack your kids’ lunches (and do it artfully and with all organic/colorful/whole grain foods), prep your own lunches 5 days in advance and pack them in cute Mason jars and in your free time don’t forget to get to yoga class or barre class or spin class or boot camp class. Nope. You won’t hear that from me. It’s Mother’s Day—do what makes you happy!

However…and you knew there was a “however” coming, right? If or when you do get to the point where you want to give more of your life to yourself and your health (now there’s a concept!), I have a few friendly, easy suggestions for doing so. I promise, these wellness suggestions will not be painful and they won’t require a gourmet kitchen. Here’s what I’ve got:

Put more produce on your plate.

The fact is that most American diets are sorely lacking in the fruit and veggie department. Don’t be one of those people! I’m not even going to specify which types of fruits and veggies to pick—just get more of them! Once you know what your produce goal is, it’s easier to picture how and where to work it into your daily eating plan. It’s recommended that adult women get 1 ½-2 cups fruit and 2-2 ½ cups of veggies each day; adult men aim for 2 cups fruit and 2 ½ – 3 cups veggies per day. For veggies, 2 cups leafy greens counts as 1 cup, otherwise it’s just a cup of raw or cooked vegetables. For fruit, just half a large apple counts as 1 cup fruit (yay!), a large peach or medium pear also count as 1 cup (berries or cut-up fruit like melon is easy to measure or eyeball a cup equivalent), and 1 cup of 100% fruit juice also counts. Here’s an idea that works for some folks: start your effort by eating a salad each day—and load it up with colorful veggies. Another idea that might work for you is to start your day with a cup of fruit, then have an apple, orange, banana, pear or peach as a snack—fruit’s done! Whatever works for you is fine. You don’t have to be perfect, nobody is. The idea is to aim for improvement.

Keep a reusable water bottle with you.

Like the produce point I just made, the same goes for water—lots of us don’t get enough (although other liquids do help us hydrate, as do things like soups). Did you ever notice that lots of times you don’t even realize that you’re thirsty until you are REALLY THIRSTY? When you have water handy—on your desk at work, in the car, when you’re exercising, wherever—you’re prompted to drink just by seeing the bottle sitting there. That’s the idea. Having adequate water intake is important for lots of body processes. I’ve given tips for jazzing up water before, so if it helps you to have some zing in your H2O, or of you prefer seltzer to plain water, then go for it. I drink from the water fountain at the gym, plus have other liquids, but for my general water intake I use a big, 32-oz water bottle and try to drink that by lunch, then refill it and have the rest by the end of dinner. That’s what works for me—find a method that works for you!

Allow yourself the luxury of enjoying your meals.

Rushing through meals is so not fun, and when did mealtime become so dispensable anyhow? Meals are meant to be savored, but so often we find ourselves gulping down our dinner, eating lunch at our desks while working, and having breakfast en route to school, work or errands. You are worth the time it takes to relax and enjoy your meals! Cut down on distractions, slow down and relax for the few minutes it takes to eat your meal. Focus on the taste of your food, the pretty colors of your food, the textures and contrasting temperatures. Being more mindful about our food not only brings greater enjoyment to mealtimes, it increases our awareness of how much we are consuming as well. And when you can eat with others, I encourage you to do so. Mealtime is about more than just the food and its nutrients. Bon appetit!

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