Eat This…NOT That! {Healthy substitutions for busy moms!}

Remember that old saying “You are what you eat?”  Well, I’m not sure about you…but I’d MUCH rather be honey and sweet pea than pig skin {aka gelatin} and azodicarbonamide!  But if you’re a busy mom like me, then you rarely have a chance to sit down and pour over each and every ingredient in the foods that you are feeding yourself and your children.  And you certainly don’t have time to compare labels at the grocery store or investigate that 148 letter word on the back of the box as your children toss blueberries at one another.  {Just me?  Hope not!}

But a few years back, just as my son was starting to eat table food, I began to really take note of what we were eating…and in turn, what I would be feeding him.  And I was appalled!  I always thought we were eating fairly healthy because of the big red lettering that said clever words like “HEALTHY” or “LOW FAT” – but what I failed to notice were the fillers, the preservatives, and the JUNK that my husband and I were consuming on an almost daily basis.  So off I went on a mission to cut out the crap {pardon my language, but that’s really what it is!} and replace it with healthy alternatives.  And now I’m so excited to be teaming up with our friends at Sprouts Farmers Market to make it easy for you too…

I’ve taken the three most popular meals of the day and three common foods that we generally gravitate towards {plus, a few extras}, and I’m giving you healthy substitutions that are SUPER easy!  {Pinky promise.}  It’s just a few small steps that will leave you more confident in the foods that are going into your precious family’s mouths, and who knows – it might inspire you to think of other ways to eliminate the junk and add in some natural sweetness on your own too!

{Now, I guess this is a good time for me to throw in a disclaimer, so I have to say that I am NOT a nutritional expert.  I’m not a dietician.  And I certainly didn’t study food science in college.  But in my not-so-expert opinion, I’m something more important than that…I’m a mom.  A mom who loves her family fiercely and wants to fill them up with the best foods possible and grow to watch my children live happy and healthy lives.  I hope you will join me in this too!}

Eat This...Not That 2

Breakfast

Instead of eating breakfast bars…try breakfast cookies!

Um, substituting a prepackaged bar for a homemade cookie?  Yes, please!  The key to this little trick is to make BIG batches of these easy and healthy breakfast cookies on the weekend, keep enough out for the next few days, and then freeze the rest to keep the ease of grabbing-and-going for weeks to come.  Another mega bonus point is that homemade breakfast cookies are WAY more affordable than those outrageous bars you buy in the store.  I love to take advantage of Sprouts bulk section for this one by grabbing tons of dried fruits and nuts to throw in too.  So, so good!

Breakfast Cookies

Instead of eating frozen waffles…try homemade pancakes!

But not just any homemade pancakes – pack a healthy punch with them!  I love this blueberry oat pancake recipe, but I’m also known to just leave out the blueberries {when a little 3 year old I know is on a blueberry strike} and just make them as plain pancakes too.  Yum either way!  This is another one that I go a little crazy making big, HUGE batches of on the weekend.  {After all, I’m already making them for a family of four – why not keep making a few dozen more?}  Then, I just lay them out on a cookie sheet or three, pop them in the freezer, and fill up a bag to last me for weeks.  They are SO easy to drop in the toaster on a busy weekday morning, and my kiddos gobble them up every. single. time.

Pancakes

Instead of eating instant oatmeal packets…try regular ol’ oatmeal!

Newsflash :: The only thing that most of those fancy oatmeal packets have in them is a whole lotta extra preservatives.  Instead, I stock up on oatmeal from that bulk section that I love so much – and just make my own!  All it takes is 1 part oatmeal to 2 parts water mixed together in a glass bowl, microwave it on high for 1-2 minutes {I usually stop and stir a few times to keep from boiling over}, and DONE.  No extra time, no extra dishes, no extra JUNK!  Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a little bit of brown sugar, and you will never buy oatmeal in a packet again.

Oatmeal

Lunch

Instead of eating frozen meals…try mason jar salads!

Ya’ll.  If you only take ONE thing from this post – please do not EVER buy one of those “Lean Whatever” frozen dinners again!  Not only do they taste disgusting, but they are packed with so many crazy ingredients that I can’t even list them all.  {Seriously – there were fifteen ingredients in just the “chicken” part of the ingredient list.  Say what?!?!}  Instead, throw all of your favorite salad mixings in a mason jar and take that to go with you!  I usually just grab a bottle of my favorite Sprouts salad dressing to take along for the ride {Italian, Rosemary Balsamic, Ceasar, Roasted Garlic, Ranch, Raspberry Vinaigrette…}, but word on the street is that if you layer the dressing on the bottom of the jar and then make sure the lettuce is farthest away on the top – you’ll be good to go and have one less container to take too!

{Pictured, from bottom to top :: red onions, carrots, leftover roasted chicken, and spinach and field green mix}

Mason Jar Salad

Instead of eating prepackaged lunches…try making your own!

While you’re at it, stop buying those awful prepackaged lunches for your kiddos too!  {Don’t even get me started on THOSE ingredients.}  I get that they are super convenient and that your kids beg for them in the grocery store, but I’ve got an even better solution – let them make their own!  Buy a divided container or six, let your kiddos go crazy picking out all of their favorite foods {encourage a few from each food group}, and then let them help you make their lunch the night before school.  They’re eating healthy…you’re getting help making lunches…sounds like a win/win to me!

{Pictured :: Sprouts Organic Stone Ground Wheat Crackers, Sprouts Cheddar Cheese – cut from a block, carrots, and a blueberry/strawberry mix}

Lunch

Instead of candy bars…try dark chocolate and almonds!

Sooo, this is the REALLY tough one for me.  I am slightly obsessed with all things sweet, and I just love, love, love a good candy bar.  The best alternative I’ve found is a small bowl of dark chocolate and almonds – you guessed it, from the bulk section – since it totally curbs my craving and leaves me satisfied until my next sweet tooth strikes again.

Chocolate and Almonds

Dinner

Instead of using seasoning packets…make your own blends!

Seasoning packets are typically packed with sodium and cost a fortune for what’s really in them.  So instead, just make your own!  I like to stock up on various spices from what I have dubbed is the Wall of Spice over at Sprouts, and then make batches of my favorites in glass containers at home.  It’s so easy to just grab a pre-mixed blend from the pantry when I’m cooking, and I love knowing EXACTLY what’s going into the food I work so hard to make for my family.

{Pictured, taco seasoning :: mostly equal parts of chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder}

Spices

Instead of using canned veggies…try frozen veggies!

This is kind of a no brainer for me, considering they can be used pretty much interchangeably and they both last months in their respective homes {pantry vs. freezer}.  The only thing different – frozen veggies are way better for you since they don’t lose all of those awesome nutrients in the canning process!  {Note :: Always go for fresh veggies if you can, but it’s so very nice to have frozen on hand when you’re in a pinch or just want something easy.}

Frozen Vegetables

Instead of eating frozen pizza…try a homemade pizza!

Okay, okay.  I’ll admit – homemade pizza is NOT as easy as frozen.  But I can tell you that it will taste a million times better and is so much better for you!  I love to go all out by making homemade dough, slathering on Sprouts Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce, topping it with fresh mozzarella cheese, and then throwing on my favorite toppings.  Oh, and I always set aside some extra dough so that my kiddos can make their own personal pizzas too.  It’s so fun to see which toppings they pick out, and they take so much pride in eating something they made themselves as well!

Pizza

Extras

Instead of soda…try sparkling water!

Oooh, sodas.  I know that there are A LOT of people out there who rely on them to get through the day.  {At least that’s what they tell me!}  But I challenge you to try something else!  Try infusing water with some fresh fruit for a little something sweet, try green tea for a slight caffeine boost, or try my favorite – La Croix Sparkling Water – for the bubbly carbonation.  {Pssst…last time I was at Sprouts they had big bottles on sale 5/$5!  I stocked up!!}

Sparkling Water

Instead of microwave popcorn…try popping your own!

Another Newsflash :: The only thing that those microwavable popcorn bags have in them are unnecessary chemicals.  Did you know that you can microwave your own popcorn in nothing more than a lunch sack?  It’s true!  Just put about 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels into a medium sized brown paper bag, fold it over a few times, and then microwave on high for about 2-2.5 minutes {or until the popping slows}.  Ta Da!  Healthy popcorn for pennies on the dollar.

Popcorn

Instead of non-stick spray…try an EVOO sprayer!

Yet another little tip that will save you BIG money and boost your health!  First, do yourself a favor and invest in an EVOO sprayer.  Then, buy a HUGE bottle of Sprouts 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil {it costs just $7.99 at the location by me}.  Last, make your own non-stick spray for months and months to come.  Bonus :: I love that this helps me control how much oil I’m adding to foods as well.  Instead of an automatic pour, I can just give a little spray to save on calories too.  Winning!

EVOO Spray

So there you have it, friends – think you can make a few of these changes in YOUR kitchen?  I promise that they will leave you feeling great…not just from the nutritional benefits that these foods bring, but from the confidence you will gain in knowing the foods that you are feeding your family as well!  Of course, I have to give a huge shout out to Sprouts Farmers Market for sponsoring our HMB Favorite Things party and for partnering together with us on this post.  As you can tell, I’m crazy about the products that fill their shelves…and yes, especially their bulk section.

 Let’s hear it…what not-so-healthy foods do you struggle with?  What are some of your favorite healthy substitutions?  What are you going to try after reading this post?  I’d love to keep the conversation going in the comments below!

3 Responses to Eat This…NOT That! {Healthy substitutions for busy moms!}

  1. Avatar
    Beth January 22, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

    Great article, can you post recipes to go with your suggestions?

    • Avatar
      Kelly D January 23, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      Sure! Which recipes are you interested in? I’m happy to share!

  2. Avatar
    Coppelia June 21, 2018 at 9:46 am #

    Kelly!!! These are AWESOME ideas! We already do the popcorn, and just last week I made a version of the 100 days of real food banana pancakes and froze those! My kids LOVED them! We’ve done the homemade lunchables, too (easier than I thought!) But the EVOO sprayer and the idea of bulk dark chocolate & almonds for a snack? Girl, I might need to take this post and create a little shopping list! Love it!

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