Sometimes we enjoy a season of calm. Sometimes we’re enduring a season that is more hectic, difficult, or even traumatic. For the times you feel you are simply surviving from day to day, here are some ideas to help you still eat healthy and stay physically strong.
Times of Being in Survival Mode
Being in survival mode doesn’t always mean we’re going through something difficult. Sometimes it means there’s a new baby on the way or a new baby who doesn’t sleep much at night. Sometimes it means you’re a family in transition, perhaps because of a new job or a new house or another new life situation.
Or sometimes it does mean that we’re going through something quite difficult. Someone is sick, someone has died, something tragic took place. Putting one foot in front of the other is all we can do, so making healthy meals takes a back burner – just as it should do.
Here’s what I’ve considered lately as our family has spent several months in survival mode (not because of tragedy but because of additional foster babes and a job transition for my husband that requires extra time):
Seasons of survival make it harder to eat well – at a time that we need healthy foods more than ever so that we can stay physically strong!
This is super tricky. While we feel that we are just surviving from day to day and have very little time to think about food or health, this is actually the time when we know that we need to stay healthy. Ack, what in the world?
In our family’s situation, we haven’t been getting quite enough sleep for several months. Our meal prep time is super limited and is almost done while holding a baby or three. If ever there was a time to order pizza – this is it. But also, if ever there was a time that Mom and Dad need to not get sick – this is also it. So is it hopeless, or are there ways to survive and stay healthy?
How to Still Eat Healthy When You’re in Survival Mode
Here’s what our family has been doing the past few months during a season of survival:
1. We drink our salads.
I cannot share more adamantly about how great this is. This is my lunch most days and if I didn’t have it, I’m not sure where I’d be. It takes about 5 minutes for me to make a big blenderful of smoothie packed with greens and fruit. It makes about a half gallon for Matt and me to enjoy for a couple of days. I pour myself a glass when I get hungry mid-morning and drink it while I take care of all the kids. It is loaded with nutrients but I don’t have to stop and eat. And yes, stopping to eat is better – but I am simply not able to do that in the middle of the day right now.
Likewise, Matt runs home for a quick lunch each day and “drinks his salad” while he warms up leftovers to eat. Then he’s back out the door to work again.
Packing smoothies full of greens is truly a wonderful way to keep our bodies functioning well when we have very little time to eat mid-day. For the record, these are also a wonderful way to keep our bodies functioning well when we DO have time to eat. So there’s that. :)
2. We spend a little more for convenience produce items.
Yes, it’s cheaper to buy the carrots and cut them into sticks. But when I attempt that right now, my carrots stay at the bottom of the drawer of my fridge and they stare at me until I return their stare with a dirty look message of “are you kidding me right now?”
So right now, I buy the packages of fantastic little petite organic baby carrots. They probably cost twice as much as the whole carrots, but good grief, they are still just $1.99/pound and we are actually eating them because they are easy. So bring on the petite carrots in a bag. I love you, petite carrots.
Also, mini sweet peppers, carrot chips, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, bananas, clementines, and apples.
Whole pineapple? Not right now. After all, that requires the use of two hands, a knife, and a bowl.
3. We buy applesauce pouches in bulk.
These incredible squeezable applesauce pouches save us every day. All of my little ones love them. All of my big ones love them. I buy all different 100% fruit varieties (including the kind with added veggies!) and the family guzzles them down with breakfast or lunch or for snacks. Be my BFF, applesauce squeezies.
4. We also buy prepared fruit cups.
I don’t want to talk about their price compared to fresh fruit or even canned fruit. :/ But right now, the cups of peaches, pears, mandarins, and pineapple in 100% juice have a prominent place on my countertop and I don’t feel bad about it. Yes, I also buy fresh fruit (see #2 above). But I also keep a big supply of fruit cups on hand because they have been an incredible resource to help me feed all the little ones when they are all hangry at once.
Fun fact: Sometimes my teens aren’t interested in fresh fruit but they will happily eat a peach cup. If it’s a peach cup compared to no fruit, I’ll happily give them a peach cup. Amen.
5. I regularly dump sauce on chicken.
This is pretty much the easiest meal idea in the entire world so no one can ever say they don’t have time to cook a healthy meal. Use a pyrex, use the crock pot, use the grill. Just dump sauce on chicken and cook it. Get out the mixed greens and add dressing (or drink your salad as encouraged in #1). Get out fresh strawberries and wash them. This meal is the most delicious and extremely nourishing without even trying.
6. If I buy and serve convenience food, we all choose a healthy side or two to go with it.
I’ve admitted that we sometimes eat nuggets from a bag right now. See also: mac and cheese from a box and pizza from the freezer. These feed us on extra busy/hard days, but first we choose a fruit and veggie to eat with our boxed or bagged food. Worrying over what’s in the box won’t bless our health, by the way. So I eat it with relief and joy, knowing that God is bigger!
7. I know this isn’t our forever season in life, so I recognize that this is not my forever lifestyle.
Someday I’ll sleep through the night again and I won’t have three kids in diapers. Someday my arms will be available (sniff) and I’ll even be able to turn more kitchen and household tasks over to the littles who will eventually be bigs. Things will get easier again. And then they might get harder and then easier and then harder and then easier. Friends, this is why they’re called “seasons.”
We all have times that are tougher and times that are easier. When we’re surviving, we can do our best with healthy food choices and smile at the fruit cup. When we’re breathing more easily, we can cut the pineapple and cut the carrot sticks. Or not. Or whatever, because who even cares about the free-range chicken?
What God calls us to do today, He will provide and equip us for. If you’re surviving, good for you! If you can enjoy an applesauce squeezy and a green smoothie to help you survive a little better, awesome.
What ways have you found to still eat healthy when you’re in survival mode?