Laura's Blog on Healthy Eating for Teachers
To say teachers have special meal time needs is an understatement. Many of us need a portable breakfast that we can eat on our early morning commute so that we can face our charges with energy to match theirs. (Thank goodness high schoolers are pretty lethargic in the morning!) We have about 20-30 minutes at lunch time and this can be hindered by long lines at the microwave in the teacher’s lounge. And if we stay after school to tutor or grade or prepare for the next day, we can hit the road hungry. For many years, my meals consisted of pre-prepared frozen fare that I could heat and eat or something from a drive through window on my route to or from school. The frozen meals are convenient and relatively inexpensive, and, of course, the drive through meals are effortless. As a singleton, I don’t have to worry about providing adequate nutrition for a spouse or small people.
But I noticed over the years that these meals were taking a toll on my health. Nothing catastrophic. But despite my frozen meals being lean, they were really watching my weight creep up. I was feeling bloated and lethargic. And my cholesterol levels were creeping toward the high end of normal. I needed to make a change in order to feel better physically and emotionally.
About 3 years ago, I decided that I needed to cut out much of the processed food I was eating and try to eat more “real food.” This took me on an unexpected journey to a whole foods, plant based diet, but that’s a story for another time! The advice I give you today is to give yourself the gift of meal planning and weekly meal preparation so that your meals can nourish your body and spirit. You give so much of yourself to you students that your life outside of school can suffer. Plan and prepare to take care of yourself so that you can joyfully give to others.
I like to eat. And I like to cook . . . when my results turn out tasty. But when my schedule is hectic, I don’t want to spend time in the kitchen before I can eat. So, I shop and cook once a week. I know that I have something for breakfast I can heat and eat or grab and go as the day requires. I know that I have a lunch I will enjoy whenever I have a chance to eat it! And I know I have something yummy waiting for me at home so that I can avoid drive through temptation. Planning and prep will definitely help you avoid the processed foods that can wreak havoc on your health, will save you time in the kitchen (except for those one or two days that you are getting everything ready for your week), and will save you money on groceries!
Meal planning can be time consuming. When I started out, I wanted to do it myself. Then “life” happened, and I decided to purchase a few weeks of planned meals with shopping lists. These were great, but in some respects I felt “trapped” by the plan, so armed with some new formats, I again ventured out on my own. I wanted to try new things every week! I wanted to work my way through my new cookbooks! I have about 4 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists prepared. They still need some tweaking. I decided I was not good at making sure that if I bought a head of cabbage, for example, that I would use it in several recipes in order to make sure it didn’t turn into a science experiment in my fridge. And I spent a lot of time pouring over my cookbooks and cooking blogs to add recipes that sounded good ”this week.” If you go it alone, give yourself the gift of time and patience to get it right.
Right now, I have an annual subscription to a meal planning service that emails me a menu, shopping list, recipes, ingredient prep list, and once-a-week-cooking tips. I don’t make every meal or use every part of the service, but it provides me with new recipes and many options for making my week work! I find that choosing from these meals is way less overwhelming than scouring cookbooks and blogs. I batch cook beans, rice, potatoes, and sauces that I use often so that I can pull together a meal “on the fly” if for some reason I don’t have something prepared. Have I totally eliminated processed foods and fast foods? No. But I have cut way back and dropped my cholesterol 50 points. Most days I just feel better about what I am doing to take care of myself. So, I encourage you to find what works for you and your family and make mealtime a time to love yourself!
Here are some sites to get you started. You can find MANY more options online.
Free Online Meal Plans
Paid Meal Planning Services
Batch Cook Like a Boss video