Food & Nutrition

The busy Mums' healthy living guide

Too busy to find time to exercise? Too tired to make healthy food choices? Try these tips for busy mums.
Published 21 June 2018

5 healthy living tips for mums

1. Learn to plan ahead

Having a daily running sheet may sound a bit obsessive, but it’s an essential tool for busy mums. Stepping out the door with your list, water bottle and a healthy morning snack of fresh fruit, a handful of nuts or a tub of yoghurt in a cooler bag will keep you going until lunch. Planning the family’s evening meal while having breakfast also means you can grab missing ingredients while you’re out and about and helps avoid the takeaway trap as you approach dinner time with hungry kids.

2. Eat leftovers for lunch

Dinners such as meatballs, rissoles, Mexican burritos and healthy pizza make fabulous lunches for both you and the kids. Pack a lunch box for yourself if you are going to work or even if you’re staying home. It’s ready waiting for you and there is less chance of you skipping this important meal and then snacking on unhealthy options later.

3. Don't skip breakfast

Skipping breakfast might not be the best way to start the day. Some studies have shown that skipping breakfast may be associated with a higher body mass index (BMI), not to mention leaving you feeling washed out and exhausted before you even start your day. Grabbing an egg on toast, a bowl of baked beans or fruit and natural yoghurt will provide you with the necessary energy and nutrients for the part of the day when you need it most. Easier still is to soak some muesli in water overnight and top it with a dollop of yoghurt and some fresh berries in the morning: it’s your 30-second breakfast on the run.

4. Walk when you can

If school is around the corner, walk the kids there rather than drive. Alternatively, if it is a bit far, drive but park the car at school for the day and continue on foot to work or back home. Most exercise plans fall in a heap by the end of the day when fatigue sets in, but when you build an exercise routine like this into your day it’s easier to stick to.

5. Schedule booze-free days

Pouring a glass of wine at the end of the day may feel relaxing. However, it can become a habit that’s hard to break. A few alcohol-free days in your week will help to lower your kilojoule count and help you sleep better. A standard glass of wine or beer has the same amount of kilojoules as a piece of bread, so that bottle that you share over dinner is adding more than three slices of bread to your meal. Try crisp sparkling water with a squeeze of lime or a dash of bitters, or your favourite aromatic tea bag in some iced water during the week. The less you drink, the lower your tolerance, so the less you need!

Be mindful of these traps

1. Leave the littlies’ leftovers

Finishing off your children’s meals is a trap you can easily fall into. It’s understandable that you don’t want waste, but becoming the human ‘insinkerator’ is a sure-fire way to gain weight. Leftover food at dinner time can be reused as lunch or a snack the next day (just cut off any nibbled parts). Give the uneaten vegetables or salad items a quick rinse and place in a container for lunch boxes the next day. If you’re feeding young kids early and find yourself getting hungry, make a cup of tea, grab a carrot, a few cherry tomatoes, green beans and some salsa dip to tide you over until your mealtime.

2. Limit kid-friendly foods

Making sure your children eat their dinner is important but eating sausages and mash or tacos every night can become boring. Involve the kids in the family’s weekly meal choices and use pictures from recipe books or online to help choose. Make sure you include some of your favourites and adapt them for kids’ palates. Exposing your children to lots of new tastes, textures and smells early on means you build variety into their diet and taste into yours.

3. Don’t over-snack it

If babies can survive three hours between meals, so can adults. Incidental snacking usually occurs through boredom or the fact that it’s simply in front of you. Place tempting foods out of sight or, better still, out of the house. Set your watch or alarm for at least three hours between meals and if you seem to be getting too hungry too soon, add more protein to the previous meal, such as an egg, a few nuts or a portion of meat, chicken or fish. Protein sits in your tummy for longer and keeps you feeling full.

4. Avoid hidden sugars in what you drink

Losing a few kilos can be difficult if you forget to include the kilojoules from the things you drink. The number of coffees, juices, soft drinks, smoothies or alcoholic beverages you have in your week can quickly double your kilojoule intake. The following chart shows the hidden sugars in our drinks:

Drinks kilojoule comparison

Small latte 297 kJ
Large latte 540 kJ
Standard wine 456 kJ
Regular smoothie 1337 kJ
Can of soft drink 525 kJ
Bottle of juice 288 kJ

Choose plain water, sparkling or soda water, herbal or green tea, coffee – black or with a dash of milk – or the occasional low-joule or diet cordial or soft drink.

Lastly: Always put your health first

Being a mum can sometimes feel like you’re at the bottom of the family food chain but it’s important that your needs are met just like everyone else’s. A chat with older children or a one-on-one with your partner can help to manage your workload to ensure you get time to exercise, socialise, read a book or relax during your day. Don’t take on too many stressors and accept any offers of help. Eat well, get a good night’s sleep and occasionally stop to smell the roses or a good cup of coffee!