Keeping your eye on the ball – healthy dietary and lifestyle practices when juggling being a mum or dad, working and everything else in between
Whilst most women’s most valued role in life is being a mother, the buck often doesn’t stop there. Its not uncommon for women to play mother, wife, sister, daughter, boss, employee, friend, chef, calendar, taxi, counsellor and educator, all at the one time mind you! Equally, in today’s society, Dads are not left out of this equation and more likely than not play a myriad of roles other than Dad. Whilst this may seem like multi tasking at its finest, juggling multiple roles and being faced with never ending ‘to do’ lists, can cause feelings of stress, overwhelm and even despair.
Stressed? Who me
Naturally stress is part of life, everyone experiences some stress but excess amounts for prolonged periods of time is not ok! When you’re juggling roles and racing around at 100 miles an hour it causes your body to be in a constant state of stress and perceive everything you do as a threat. When your body sees the surrounding environment as harmful the wrong messages within are sent causing hormonal mayhem and not allowing the body to function, as it should. This can leave you feeling emotional, volatile, exhausted and anxious. To add fuel to the fire, when time is tight, eating often drops off the radar, sending our blood sugar on a roller coaster, amplifying our stressed state.
Dropping the ball
A woman’s (or man’s) natural instinct is to be everything to everyone at once. When we have too much on our plate, in the race for survival, healthy dietary and lifestyle practices are often the first ball dropped. Undoubtedly fuelling yourself with wholesome foods and taking time out is your best defence against being a victim of burning the candle at both ends. If this all sounds too familiar, take a look at where you might be going wrong and how to turn things around:
Top mistakes made when juggling
- Forgetting to include lean protein at each meal
- Fearing healthy fats and opting for ‘low fat’ high sugar carbohydrates
- Seeking a sugar or caffeine-loaded pick me up during energy slumps
- Skipping meals altogether
- Not carrying around healthy snacks or “emergency” foods
- Eating on the run or in a stressed state
- Using alcohol to wind down
- Forgetting to drink water
- Food shopping without a plan or list
- Leaving “everything else” until night and therefore disrupting sleep
- Not leaving time for exercise
- Putting yourself last
Simple tips to keep your eye on the ball
- Have healthy snacks on hand; research supports regular eating and use of protein at each meal/snack for improved body composition and blood sugar balance, good options include:
- 1 piece of fruit and ¼ cup nuts
- Vegetable sticks/rice crackers and dip
- 100-200g natural yoghurt and fruit
- 1-2 boiled eggs with fruit or vegetable sticks
- 1 green juice and ¼ cup nuts
- Easy protein options at meals; protein is important for satiety and regular blood sugar levels, keeping you energised to push on, simple ideas include;
- 1-2 boiled eggs
- 1 can of salmon, tuna, sardines or mackerel
- Left over chicken, lamb, pork from the night before
- Nuts and seeds
- Natural yoghurt, cottage cheese, ricotta, feta cheese
- Protein powders
- Adequate Healthy fats; just like protein, good fats assist with satiety, support hormone production and a healthy mood, make sure you include some of the following daily:
- Extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil as dressings on salads or vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Low-glycaemic index high fibre carbohydrates; avoid sending blood sugar levels on a roller coaster and provide energy to fuel your to do list, have these healthy carbohydrates on hand:
- Quinoa, freekeh, oats, wild rice, sourdough bread
- Root vegetables and fruits
- Legumes, pulses and beans
- Drink up as dehydration can increase energy slumps, mask true hunger and impair detoxification:
- If you’re struggling to drink water, upon waking drink 500mls of water and try carrying a water bottle with fresh squeezed lemon around to sip during the day.
- Boosting your immunity; stress and a poor diet can lower immunity and increase susceptibility to colds and flus, if you feel run down;
- Supplement with a good quality probiotic, try fermented foods or immune boosting foods such as garlic, pumpkin seeds, citrus fruit and protein to stay fighting fight.
- Have a plan
- Set time aside weekly before food shopping to make a shopping list, plan meals, and dedicate a day to prepping healthy meals.
- Make this time family time; it is a great way to teach kids how to be healthy in the kitchen and the importance of prioritising healthy eating.
- Eating on the run; eating in a stressed state inhibits our ability to absorb the nutrients from the food we are consuming, leaving us under-nourished, if you find yourself eating at your desk, in your car or in-between meetings, try:
- Dedicating 10-15 minutes daily to finding a quiet place to eat,
- Switch off your phone whilst eating
- If this is a real struggle, prioritise small meals more frequently which only take 5-10 minutes to enjoy
- Acknowledge the importance of “me time” daily by:
- Ditching the guilt
- Setting aside 20-30 minutes and turn off your phone or computer
- Make a date in the calendar marked as “me time” and engage in an activity you enjoy eg sport, movies, lunch out
- If extra time during the day is a struggle, wake up 30 minutes earlier and go for a walk in nature or curl up with a book and cup of tea
- Exercising: exercise will help us sleep more soundly at night, improve stress, assist to regulate blood sugar levels and boost immunity. Interestingly, salivary antimicrobial proteins, which protect the upper respiratory tract from invading microorganisms are influenced by our fitness levels and amount of exercise we undertake.
- Prioritise a healthy sleep routine: a restorative nights sleep is imperative when you’re a busy mum. Waking exhausted can set you up for an unproductive day and influence poor dietary choices. Loss of sleep causes our appetite signal to raise and can disrupt blood sugar levels causing sugar cravings and energy slumps!
Next time you’re tempted to do it all, stop Mumzilla or Dadzilla coming out to play, follow my healthy diet and lifestyle tips and no doubt your health and family will thank you for it!
To help take some of the pressure off, these delicious and healthy recipes are great to have on hand and I guarantee the little ones in your life will be sure to enjoy:
Arciero, P et al 2013, ‘Increased protein intake and meal frequency reduced abdominal fat during energy balance and energy deficit,’ Obesity, Vol. 21, No. 7, pp. 1357-66.
Gillum, T et al 2015, ‘Exercise, but not acute sleep loss, increases salivary antimicrobial protein secretions,’ J Strength Cond Res, Vol. 29, No. 5, pp. 1359-66.
Kunz, H et al 2015, ‘Fitness levels impacts salivary antimicrobial protein responds to a single bout of cycling exercise,’ Eur J Apply Physiol, Vol. 115, No. 5, pp. 1015-27.
Langkamp-Henken, B et al 2015 ‘Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071 results in a greater proportion of healthy days and a lower percentage of academically stressed students reporting a day of cold/flu: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study,’ British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 113, pp. 426-434.
Nieman, D 2010, ‘Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults,’ Brit J Sports Med.