Wellingtonians Tracey & John and their teenagers Blair 17yrs and Danielle 19yrs are a wonderful example of a family who successfully manage nutrition despite their hectic lifestyles. Tracey has a background in exercise therapy and nutrition knew as the kids got older they needed to be better organised as a family to make sure everyone was eating the right food and kept to the food budget.
How to co-ordinate 4 busy lifestyles? The family is in and out of the house at all times of the day, and while there was always food in the cupboard, but they were almost overshopping.
Tracey works a 40 hour week and on top of that owns her own pilates and exercise therapy business, so works with clients in the evening and Saturdays. She exercises in the morning either going to the gym or walking/running. John works a busy week as an electrician, but is also very active getting out running, mountain biking and also kayak racing.
Daughter Danielle is a full time student, and mostly living away in Palmerston North studying, but slots back into the family lifestyle on holidays. Son Blair is in his second last year of high school, works a part time job, and is in a development squad for sprint kayaking so he trains for that 3 times a week. He also does surf lifesaving with trainings and patrol 2-3 times a week, and goes to the gym twice a week. Both teenagers also have a pet each to look after, as well as chores round the house. Despite how busy they are, it’s not impossible to manage nutrition.
Tracey, John, Blair and Danielle started planning mealtimes as a family. They create a menu together on the weekend, considering as a group what everyone feels like eating that week so everyone gets a say. They go to the vegetable markets together and plan together as a family who will be home at what time each night that week and basically the first person home starts cooking for the family then all hands on deck as each person comes home. The rule is: the meal can be simple, but it must be healthy. Tracey & John spent time teaching the kids early about healthy food options such as draining the fat off mince, cutting the fat off meat, the value of a good stirfry with loads of vegetables.
What is unique is the family spend time together in the evening preparing the food for the next day. Fruit and yoghurt is prepared ready for John’s famous breakfast smoothies in the morning. Lunch is something different each day such as a salad or big salad & meat roll (all chopped up and ready to go), with fruit, nut bags and muesli bars all set aside ready for inclusion. By doing this they discovered an unexpected bonus, they found they ended up spending more time together as a family than they might have been able to fit in otherwise.
A sample menu for the week might look like: Salmon and couscous on a Monday, Chicken on Tuesday, Stirfry on Wednesday, Steak & baked potato/salad on Thursday and Spaghetti Bolognaise on Friday. Pasta salads and curries might follow on the weekend. Supper is a fruit platter and a cup of tea an hour or two after dinner.
Summer is the hardest time to keep the planning on track, the long days mean everyone is outside being active, for longer. However everyone in the family supports the system and knows the system works, so it’s become a priority to make it happen.
They always try to have dinner together, and they always eat at the table. Tracey feels that the family that plays together stays together, and they’ll all go mountain biking together and when they do, they’ll take a picnic lunch. When they go skiing together, they’ll take a pre-packed lunch up the mountain. They always try to be self-sufficient and their home life is built around teamwork. The same approach applies to chores, if someone is home, then they should try and knock off a chore or two to make more time for other activities or save time for someone else in the family to do something for the group.
Tracey’s tips on family nutrition is to be organised, and plan things together. If everyone gets a say, they’re more likely to be on board with the plan for the week. Nut it out on a Sunday, and the rest of the week will flow on nicely. There are so many benefits from this dedication, the family spends more time together, the kids take responsibility for the food they put into their bodies and this education lasts them a lifetime.
As told to Proactive