Q: As a wife, mother and entrepreneur, I struggle with meal preparation on a daily basis. I barely have time to get to the grocery store let alone read food labels or keep up with which foods are supposed to be "good" or "bad." How can I plan quick, healthy meals for my family?
A: As entrepreneurs, we spend countless hours planning for the success and longevity of our businesses. Why is it that we devote as little time as possible planning for the health and longevity of our bodies? Eating right can be a breeze if you follow two simple rules:
1. Eat fresh foods. A friend of mine volunteers as a counselor at a summer camp. When the children emptied their cute little lunchboxes onto the table, she couldn't believe what she saw: make-your-own pizzas, processed cheese spread on fatty crackers, cookies you dip in frosting, fruit roll-ups, candy and sodas. It was a rare occasion when a child brought in a turkey or tuna sandwich, fruit or veggies, or milk or juice. And I bet their parents brown-bagged a similar meal plan.
When you've got a busy schedule, it's understandable to look for ways to make life less complicated. But nutrition is not the place to cut corners. To eat right, try doing most of your shopping from the outer aisles of the supermarket: fresh produce, fresh meats, and fresh, whole-wheat breads. Not only is it healthier to eat natural foods instead of boxed, canned or frozen foods, but it's cheaper, too. How can you argue with that?
2. Plan ahead. What's that you say? You don't have time to prepare meats and fruits and vegetables? Planning is the key. In my experience, it takes about eight hours a week to prepare nutritious meals. Isn't your family's health worth eight hours a week?
Here's how it works: Choose seven meals your family enjoys. Write down all the ingredients you need to purchase then add on food staples and any other items you need. Take your list to the supermarket and stick to it. Total time: two hours per week.
When you return home, take out all your fruits and veggies and clean and slice them. One of the biggest contributors to poor eating habits is convenience. Many people think it's too time consuming to slice fruits and veggies for dinner, so they pop a frozen dinner in the microwave. If you fill your refrigerator with brightly colored produce that's ready for snacking and cooking, you'll be less likely to reach for the potato chips. Total time: one to two hours per week.
In addition to preparing your produce, bake a chicken or turkey, and you'll be set for lunch for the whole week. (This is much healthier than deli-sliced cold cuts.) You can also fix up stews, pasta sauces or casseroles that can be frozen and microwaved on short notice. In a few hours, you can practically prepare a week's worth of healthy meals! Total time: two hours per week preparation and 15 to 30 minutes per day to get the meals ready.
This technique takes some time and effort to perfect, but if you succeed, you'll be helping your family-and yourself-live longer, healthier, happier lives.
Shannon Entin is the publisher and editor of FitnessLink (www.fitnesslink.com) and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Health and Fitness (Macmillan). An ACE-certified (American Council on Exercise) fitness instructor, Shannon thrives on inspiring people to live healthier lifestyles.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.