It’s time to get practical. In my last post, I shared a personal theology of eating. The challenge has been to translate this theology into a daily reality. Realistically I know that changes in lifestyle take time, so I’ve created a plan that can be implemented in stages. Please know I am NOT equating this particular plan with godliness! It’s a vision for our household given our current struggles, habits, and goals. I don’t know where you are in your philosophy of eating—you may grind your own whole grains in the basement, or you may pat yourself on the back when you buy baked Doritos. I most certainly leaned toward the latter. But regardless of where you’re coming from, my thoughts are meant only to be a launching pad. You, more than anyone else, know what will bless and benefit your family the most.
That being said, my family plan includes five steps. Along the way, I’ve noted corresponding biblical principles in red, as a means of ensuring that my plan does in fact reflect my theology. As a reminder, here are the six biblical principles regarding eating from my previous post:
- We are called to eat for God’s glory.
- We are called to be free from legalism.
- We are called to be faithful stewards of our bodies.
- We are called to humility.
- We are called to seek refuge, comfort, and satisfaction in God alone.
- We are called to serve others.
With God’s help, this is the plan I want to implement in our home:
Step One: Establish and maintain an eating schedule.
In my opinion, eating at fixed times throughout the day helps children realize that food has a purpose. It’s meant to fuel the body, not calm cranky souls or entertain restless spirits (principles 1 & 5). I’ve also seen that established meal and snack times can promote healthier eating (principle 3). When kids graze all day, they’re more likely to be picky at meal time since they’re not really hungry.
Establishing and maintaining an eating schedule can benefit adults as well. If I determine that I’ll eat three meals a day with two scheduled snacks, and then I find myself eating at an irregular time, I’m forced to ask why. If the answer is that I’ve just exercised and I’m extra hungry, no big deal—I’m not a slave to legalism! (principle 2) But if the answer is that I’ve been thinking about that big fat problem and I’m feeling anxious, then I need to put the trail mix down and go to the Lord (principle 5).
Step Two: Get rid of processed snacks.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me remind myself (and you) that we have been called to be faithful stewards of our bodies (principle #3). Truthfully, processed foods are harmful to the body. Gloriously convenient, but harmful just the same. We can do better! Here’s my list of whole food alternatives, divided into three categories depending on the day:
We’re late—eat in the car!
A Typical Day
Supermom planned ahead!
||Yogurt (go for Greek—it’s got twice the protein)
||Sweet Potato Fries (chop, toss in olive oil, and roast at 400 for 15-20 min.)
||Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Butter and Cinnamon
|Nuts and Dried Fruit (3 yrs+)
||Raw Veggies and Hummus
|Pretzels or All-Natural Crackers
||Whole Grain Toast and Jam
||A Home-Baked Treat (muffins, pumpkin bread…etc.)
Listen, if you want to feel overwhelmed, google “Whole Food Snacks.” There are people who earn their livelihood blogging about every possible way to make a cookie without adding sugar. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a shot. Your snack list can be a lot more exciting than this, complete with homemade organic pop tarts. But if you’re like me, take a deep breath, and don’t sweat it. Remember: this is a process. No need to get your panties in a wad over where to buy agave syrup and brown rice paste yet. Baby steps.
One more thought—the easiest time to exercise discipline is when you’re in the grocery store. It’s much easier to say “no” to Oreos when they’re on the store shelf as opposed to the pantry shelf. What’s more, I don’t think you have to get rid of all packaged snacks in order to be healthy. A lot of whole food gurus recommend that you simply learn to read labels. Your goal is to find snacks containing food ingredients you’ve actually heard of, like “wheat flour” and “sesame seeds” as opposed to “thiamine mononitrate.”
Step Three: Create a whole food breakfast and lunch menu.
Have you ever felt like you scarcely cleaned up the breakfast dishes before pulling out the sandwich bread for lunch? Me too! All the time, in fact! Creating a breakfast and lunch menu can help on two fronts. It reduces some of the stress of meal preparation, making for a more joyful servant-Mama (principle 6), and it ensures that you’ll feed your family healthy meals (principle 3).
|Homemade Granola with Milk or Yogurt
||Peanut Butter & Jelly (fruit & veggie on the side)
|Toast with Peanut Butter & Fruit
||Grilled Cheese (fruit & veggie on the side)
|Eggs, Toast (or plain Cheerios), and Fruit
||Homemade Chicken Salad on Toast or with Pretzels
|Hard-Boiled Eggs and Mini Muffins (banana, pumpkin, bran…again, you can google a thousand healthy muffin recipes)
||Spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, ground turkey and spinach in the sauce.
|Cottage Cheese Pancakes–my mom’s recipe:
Beat together 3 eggs, ½ cup milk, and 3 Tbsp vegetable oil. Stir in ¾ cup flour and 1 ½ cup cottage cheese. Cook on a hot griddle. (I hate cottage cheese, and I LOVE these pancakes!! The cottage cheese melts and the end result reminds me of a thick crepe. A FAVORITE in our house!)
|Pizza Burgers—Put leftover spaghetti sauce on whole wheat English muffins, topped with mozzarella cheese (fruit & veggie on side)
|Veggie Platter—Pick 3 or 4 kid-friendly veggies (broccoli, cheesy cauliflower, green beans, sweet or white potatoes, peas, corn…etc.)
|Steel-Cut Oatmeal –My mom’s trick has always been to add a little flaxseed and wheat bran into the mix after it’s made. For most babies, a mashed banana will make it sweet enough. For toddler and you (who are old enough to know better), sweeten it with honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar & cinnamon.
||Black Bean Quesadillas—Put black beans and cheddar cheese between two whole wheat quesadillas and warm on the stove until cheese melts. Serve with salsa and a veggie.
|Chicken Wraps—Fill a high-fiber, low-carb veggie wrap (I buy them at Sam’s Club) with fresh chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and hummus OR use the wrap to make a quesadilla with chopped chicken, cheese, and spinach.
Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Step Four: Plan a weekly dinner menu.
Again, this preparation helps me serve my family more joyfully (principle 6) and healthfully (principle 3). I employ a simple strategy to speed things up: I think in terms of the same categories every week. For instance, once a week we have church small groups and once a week we eat out as a family or go on a date. That leaves me with five meals to plan per week. So I have five categories:
- Freezer-Friendly Meals—Every week I choose one freezer-friendly meal and cook a double (sometimes triple) portion, freezing the extra for another night.
- On the Grill—Because grilling is so healthy and so EASY, I plan one grilled dinner a week. Usually it’s as simple as Clint grilling the meat while I roast some vegetables.
- Veggie Night—I was inspired by Cracker Barrel to institute veggie night. I made a long list of vegetables that remind me of Cracker Barrel (with a little less butter). Each week I pick five items off the list for our veggie night. Believe it or not, this is usually one of the most popular nights of the week, because like Cracker Barrel I include items like homemade “macaroni and cheese” and “cinnamon apples” on my list of “vegetables.”
- Frozen Meal—Because of my first category, once a week I’m able to pull out a previously frozen, homemade meal for a no-cooking night. Hooray! (And we didn’t even have to buy a Stauffer’s lasagna!)
- Other—This is my “miscellaneous” category. I may choose to make an extra freezer-friendly meal to bulk up the stock pile, plan a meal according to what’s on sale, pull out a favorite recipe, make a crock-pot dish, or try something new. Often, the grandparents will invite us over and that works too!
Step Five: Grow in Creativity.
Eventually I want to take small steps toward healthier, tastier recipes for the sake of whole-hearted service (principle 6), sound nutrition (principle 3), and doing all things to the best of my ability for God’s glory (principle 1). I haven’t begun to explore this yet. Honestly, I’m still struggling my way through steps 2 & 3 right now, reminding myself daily that I am free in Christ and not bound by legalism! But in the future, by God’s grace, I look forward to seeing growth.
A Final Word
I want you to know that a crucial component of my plan is embracing the freedom to break every single “rule” at any given time. I’m happy for my kids to have treats in the nursery and candy bars when Grandma visits. I’m happy to break our eating schedule to surprise Daddy at work with ice-cream. My point is, I don’t want to be a slave to anything, least of all a man-made plan. I feel so strongly about this that initially I included a specific list of “freedoms” at the end of each step, but for the sake of brevity, deleted it. (I know what you’re thinking—the brevity ship set sail a long time ago. I apologize.) That’s the last point I wanted to make—eat intentionally, and eat with freedom. Eat to honor God.