“I know how to eat well, I’m just super busy at the moment.”

“Between working, my three kids and their afterschool sport, finding time to cook is impossible.”

“I work long hours and we’re [the family] never home at the same time for me to bother cooking dinner.”

Busy is the new chill.

I get it. As a mum of two, a local business owner and someone who frequently overcommits herself, I know first-hand that consistently making healthy choices is difficult. It’s even harder when you’ve had certain poor eating habits for many years. Change is difficult, especially when you try to change everything all at once and especially when life feels chaotic. In fact, trying to overhaul your daily eating pattern and sticking to a special ‘diet’ is super difficult to do, especially when you’re busy. This is NOT what healthy eating means.

Don’t think about your food choices as black and white.

I don’t like to think of healthy living as having a ‘healthy’ or an ‘unhealthy’ or a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ day. I like to think of it as a continuum of small, healthy things that feel easy for me to achieve each day and do consistently. These small behaviours add up over time and because they become part of my daily routine, it doesn’t matter whether I’m stressed, busy or tired, I still do them.

How I fit small healthy choices into my day: 

To show you that small healthy behaviours are possible even when you’re busy, here is a day in the life of Kate Freeman (me) and how I manage to live a healthy lifestyle, even though things get a little bit crazy!

6.30am – Wake up. I have a coffee. The kids have breakfast.

They choose from wholegrain toast with various toppings or high fibre cereal with milk. Some mornings they make themselves a fruit smoothie or if we have a bit more time we have eggs on toast.

7.00am – I head down to help with kid’s lunch boxes. Hubby and I share the load. He shares more of it at the moment.

My kid’s lunch boxes always have the following things:

  • Wholegrain sandwich: chicken, cheese & lettuce or tuna, carrot and mayo, etc
  • Yoghurt pouch
  • Vegetable: green beans, carrot sticks, snow peas, baby cucumbers, etc
  • Fruit: banana, apple, orange, kiwi fruit
  • Snack: popcorn, pretzels or a homemade snack like carrot muffins or oaty biscuits

7.30am – I drop kids to the bus stop and then I come home and go for 45min walk.

This is a vital part of my day to think, plan and breath. It’s been a lifesaver addition to my hectic routine and I’m grateful to have the flexibility to fit it in. I would encourage you to find some ‘white space’ in your day, even just 15-20 minutes, where you have some time just for you.

9.00am – I have breakfast. A smoothie, eggs on toast, avocado on toast. Hummus and tomato on toast…

Breakfast isn’t actually easy for me, I’m not hungry when I first wake up, but a hour or so later, after a walk and my appetite is raring to go! Find a breakfast routine that works for you and your family and you’ll be set!

9.30am – Start work. At work I have lunch and a snack.

I try to plan my lunches and snacks each week as much as possible. I keep my work stocked with easy meal components. I utilise dinner leftovers. When I get time over the weekend I cook in bulk.

4.30pm – The kids catch the school bus home and I meet them there.

Afternoon tea is all sorts of things:

  • Banana with peanut butter
  • Apple and cheese
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Wholegrain crackers with spread
  • Strawberries, oats and honey layered with yoghurt

On days when we have after school sport, we pick up snacks from the local IGAs around town. The Healthier Choices partners have signs to help you find the healthier snack options and we grab things like:

  • Fruit salad pots
  • Yoghurt pouches
  • Popcorn
  • Muesli bars
  • Pre-cut vegetable sticks
  • Roasted chickpeas – Fava beans

6.30pm – Dinner time.

Some nights we love heading out to the local club for dinner. Healthier Choices businesses like the Hellenic Club and the Canberra Southern Cross Club have healthier food options on the kid’s menu’s. I love that there is now more options than chicken nuggets and chips! It’s exciting times!

We order mineral water to drink and the kids are now so used to it, that it feels like a bubbly treat.

On the nights when basketball training doesn’t finish till 7.30pm or when I’m heading out again to give a nutrition presentation, I do a quick tasty recipes from the Hub’s Collection or a healthy convenient meal.

“What is a healthy convenient meal?” I hear you say. It’s a meal that is healthy, quick and easy and I can pick up the 4 or so ingredients from my local supermarket on the way home. My team and I at The Healthy Eating Hub created a resource of 47+ meal ideas to help you stay healthy even when life gets crazy. Check it out here.

Focus on small habits that feel easy so they become part of your life.

Overall, I’ve found that even though I’m busy, making small healthier choices is a normal part of my day. It’s become normal is by practicing these mini habits and finding what works for me and my family. These mini habits all add up and the end result is long term good health, without the stress of trying to achieve a ‘perfect diet’.

A great mini habit that I’d encourage everyone to start with is to add a vegetable in or put a healthy twist on a favourite recipe. I always add a side salad to pizza or lots of vegetables to our favourite green curry.

Calling all passionate home cooks!

If you’ve got a recipe with a healthy twist that you, your teen or child cooks, then we’d love you to enter the Great Canberra Cook Off. It’s a Canberra wide community cooking competition, culminating in a cook off event for adults, teens and kids. There are heaps of great prizes to be won!

There are three age categories so everyone can enter. Entries due Monday 11th November. For more details and to submit your entry click here.