My life is divided into sports seasons. I think it’s ironic considering the only sport I ever really attempted on my own was track, and that was only because this very cute senior football player who was doing the shot put. As soon as the real running started and the cute senior football player started dating a cute senior girl, the coach and I realized my talents were better suited for the theatre class.
Now I find myself the mother of athletically inclined children. Mix in a career, deployments, church, school, after school stuff, and six children, here is what you get: a lot of fast food eaten in the “swagger wagon,” the name the Lacrosse kids affectionately gave my minivan.
During a deployment in 2005, things really started falling apart with our diet. The deployment in 2007 was the nail in our healthy living coffin. By the time I came up for air, I was twenty pounds heavier and my two youngest children had no idea food could come out of our own kitchen and not just from a window next to a speaker box.
So here are some suggestions I’ve gathered from some of my personal heroes and mentors, other military spouses with swagger wagons.
Take an afternoon every two weeks or so and pre-make several meals. Part of our problem is that we are so tightly scheduled as families these days we do not have time to prepare healthy meals each day. “Fast food” doesn’t have to be from a window. It can be from your freezer.
Here is another take on the freezer meal idea. Find four or five friends willing to participate and once a month, or however often your group decides; make five or six freezer meals, all the same, one for each family participating and your own. Exchange with all the other participants, keeping one for you. You now have six nights worth of dinners, all different, and you didn’t cook them all or have to come up with six different ideas, only one. While occasionally you may find your family less than thrilled with a meal, odds are it won’t be very often. Choose your freezer meal friends wisely…
Another problem I have is forgetting to eat until I am starving beyond reason and am forced to go for the fries and soda. You’d think I’d weigh less forgetting to eat. Not so, the fries keep me sturdy. Whip up a batch of chicken breasts, vegetables, and brown rice, divide into healthy weight management targeted portions, and pop your new fast food into small freezer bags and into your freezer. Pop it in the microwave for a few minutes, add some fat free Pico de Gallo to flavor it, and viola! You have saved your scales and your heart from the fatal fries. Oddly enough, my kids started sneaking them after school too!
Meals on Wheels
Okay so what about the afternoons you never get out of your car or back home until after eight o’clock at night? The swagger wagon ice chest! Ice packs thrown in with water bottles, juice boxes, sandwiches, and other after school snacks are in easy reach as kids climb in after school and you drive off to various activities, lessons, and meetings. To avoid too much complaining about the contents, have your kids select and prepare the “meals on wheels” items. When they complain they want a “double something” and a shake instead of what the ice chest holds, remind them they were involved in selecting the contents.
This is wonderful opportunity for our kids to develop and exercise critical thinking skills. Guide them through the process of planning for the day or week. Ask them questions like, “Tomorrow, what do you have after school? What time do you eat lunch/snack at school? When will you be home to eat again? What do you have to do before you get home? What can you fix or put in the swagger wagon ice chest that is reasonable?”
Example of when parents need to “guide.” The suggestion was a bag of skittles before a football game. I asked my 9-year-old son, “what if it makes you sick and you throw up on the field?” He thoughtfully said he would point at it and tell the opposing team’s players to “taste the rainbow.” That’s the same kid who cleaned out my fridge.
Child-led, parent-guided; it’s painful but will pay off in the long run when they learn prior planning and preparation and develop healthy life habits.
Crock-Pots, Roasters, and Rice Cookers! Oh MY!
If you don’t have these items go out and buy them immediately! I met an active duty Army physician and mom in Texas. She opened my eyes to the joys of a crock pot. Frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a bottle of oyster sauce dumped over it, bam. Set your rice cooker on a timer or add water and start it as soon as you walk in the door. Oh yeah… that’s what I‘m talking about. I don’t remember if there was a vegetable involved, but some rice cookers have a steamer tray to steam vegetables at the same time.
Sharing meals is an important family ritual and since reality hasn’t caught up with the science fiction shows depicting fully prepared meals appearing out thin air, we have to resist the temptation of all the windows lined up on Main Street luring us with their golden fries. Your family’s health and your bank account will thank you for it!