As parents, we want our family meals to be nutritious, delicious, and affordable. But even healthy food will not last forever. We have to be just as savvy about our “parenting wellness” that not only includes storing food properly, but also about how we are making nutritious food choices. Here are some tips on navigating safe food storage, flavor, and energy balance.
However, as we work to select healthy foods for our kids, we often skip out on doing the same for ourselves, relying on junk or fast foods. And that, along with other poor lifestyle choices, can sap the energy we need for parenting and living a well-balanced life.
Here are top tips on how to keep our food healthy and safe, as well as how to make food and lifestyle choices that boost our energy and wellness.
Healthy Food Is Fresh Food
When selecting food for our families, we tend to focus on nutrition only. This is a good thing, but we also need to be aware that improper food storage can imperil our health. It can be spoiled, contaminated with bacteria, or have reduced nutritional value.
Many people assume that food stored in a freezer lasts a long time, but it depends on the food. For example, hot dogs, luncheon meat, and bacon or sausage products can only be stored for 1 to 2 months, while whole chickens and turkeys can last one year. Use the U.S. Food Safety website to determine maximum time to keep items frozen.
How can you track the products stored in your fridge, freezer, and pantry? First, label each package with the date. Then, log it on a calendar to track when to use or throw them out.
Keeping Fresh Food in an Emergency
No matter how carefully you plan, power outages and other emergencies can derail your food storage systems. Have a plan to keep your food safe when the power goes out. A few simple strategies can help:
- Use plastic or tin foil to reduce the risk of freezer burn.
- Stock your freezer and coolers with blocks or bags of ice and frozen water packs to protect food when the power is out.
- If there’s likely to be an outage, for example, if you get a hurricane warning, freeze your food immediately.
- Store different types of food separately. Those that have a shorter life can be stored together.
Keeping Your Food Full of Flavor
When you have kids, everything you put on the table must be tasty. In addition to keeping food safe, proper food storage helps food retain its flavor and nutritional value.
For example, refrigerating tomatoes as soon as you buy them impairs their flavor. It also prevents the processes needed for the best nutritional value. Or, did you know that eggs should be stored in their original container and placed deep inside your refrigerator to keep their freshness? If you keep them on the door, they are not as cold and can go stale.
One of the best ways to ensure that your food is always fresh, flavorful, and stored properly is to plan your meals ahead of time.
Meal Planning to Boost Your Energy
While it may sound like more work, meal planning helps you make food storage part of the process. How can you get started?
Create a list of healthy foods that give you energy. Start with complex carbs, such as whole grains and legumes, which boost your energy. Simple carbs like white bread, candy, fruit juice, and processed grains like cereal can drain you. And while fruit is a great replacement for dessert, it is high in sugar, which can also crash your energy. Limit how much fruit you add to your diet.
A great way to think about it is to consider how you pack your child’s lunchbox with healthy, simple solutions.
- Start with healthy proteins, which are filling, like Greek yogurt or grilled chicken.
- Next comes produce: choose one fruit and one veggie, like berries and celery. You can add a healthy dip, too, like hummus or guacamole.
- To make it interesting, add something with crunch. Veggie straws, whole grain crackers, or sweet potato chips are all great choices.
After shopping, pull out your food containers. Label and store the items as required and fill out your food calendar. Doing this regularly will give more time to care for yourself and your family.
Lifestyle Strategies to Boost Your Energy
After tackling your grocery list to include foods that boost your stamina, address the root causes of what is sapping your energy, including:
- Burnout or other mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.
- Illness or disease, especially when undiagnosed. Get your annual check-up.
- Poor diet and unhealthy habits, like smoking or dehydration. Cut down on foods that lack nutrition, like potato chips.
- A lack of physical activity. Too often, we get chained to our desks or other tasks. Even a daily brisk walk can help get you motivated and improve your mood.
- Not enough sleep. You should aim for 7 hours a night at least.
Give yourself a few months to put these plans into action. Baby steps allow you to see gains and build healthy habits that benefit your whole household.
To ensure that your family’s food is safe, nutritious, and flavorful, make sure it’s stored properly. Replace junk food choices with healthy options for yourself and the kids, and then work on improving your energy one step at a time. Your family will thank you when they see a more vital, happy, and healthy parent!