Moms tend to put their own health low on their priority list, if not on the bottom. But a healthier mom is a happier mom, and a happier mom is arguably a much better mom. Of course, there’s a boatload of justifications for why you have no time to exercise, eat right and get enough sleep. But deep down, we know you don’t want excuses—what you really want is solutions. So here are seven of our favorite ways to stay healthy despite all the demands on your time that make wellness seem out of reach.
1. Strategically shop for convenience foods
If buying precut butternut squash means you will be inspired to make a fresh soup or roasted vegetable dish, we’re all for it. When time is at a premium, you may have to cut yourself a little slack. Eating fresh, healthy meals at home is a prerequisite for good health overall. Cutting a few well-chosen corners, such as precut vegetables of bagged salads, is well worth the extra cost if it affords you the opportunity to cook something you would ordinarily not have the bandwidth for.
2. Consider family nutrition a smart investment
The truth is, a lot of times healthy meal prep for your family is a time investment, albeit a worthy one. You might consider scaling back on hours at the office—if you can—and intentionally making nutrition for you and your family a priority. How we eat has such an impact on our health and well-being that devoting time to it the way we would to a job can make a lot of sense. If you can’t cut into work hours, consider using the weekend as a time to prep the week’s meals in advance.
3. Schedule “you” time
You might have already figured out as a busy mom that if it’s not on the schedule there’s likely no chance that it’s going to happen. Random acts of self-care are rare—but time that’s factored into the day carries more credence. Make “you” time a necessity, not a luxury. Be receptive to what you need most in that moment, be it a nap, a yoga class, time with friends, a nature hike or even a retail splurge.
4. Figure out ways to exercise with (and without) your kids
Squeeze exercise in, and don’t get hung up about how long or how hard. Whether it’s an after dinner walk, or an early morning run, moms need to be creative about meshing exercise with a busy schedule. Short little bursts count too and many studies support that several micro workouts can be even more effective than a sustained one-hour workout. Consider hiring a babysitter or a mother’s helper so you can go to a class or on a hike.
Also be sure you incorporate exercise into your family life. Kids love to explore yoga postures at home with you, and in the early years strollers can make being mobile a viable reality. As your kids grow figure out the physical activities that make the most sense for your family, be it swimming or bicycle rides or more ambitious sports such as climbing and skiing.
5. Make breakfast non-negotiable
You’re so vigilant about making sure your kids get a healthy breakfast but often apply a double standard to yourself. A cup of coffee does not equate to a well-balanced meal. Go for it and make it a large breakfast, packed with whole foods and protein. Studies have found that eating larger volumes of healthier foods that are full of lean protein, fiber and other nutrients — rather than foods high in refined carbs and processed ingredients — helps give you energy and keep you full without all the calories. Plus, people tend to feel more satisfied by food eaten in the morning and the feeling of satiety can carry through the whole day.
6. Keep blood sugar on an even keel
Wild fluctuations in your blood sugar can totally mess with your energy level and make you feel sapped. Don’t perpetuate the cycle by opting for the quick sugar rush that will eventually become a crash. Instead, eat regular small snacks that include protein for sustained energy, such as trail mix, hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, and small containers of veggies and cheese.
7. Play with your kids
Though sometimes you have to step away from the kids for sanity reasons, the right kind of mommy-child time can be a surprisingly effective way to refill your tank. Even just 15 minutes of quality, uninterrupted play without a deadline or timeline or goal can do the trick. Getting dressed and fed and out of the house is important but if you don’t make time for quality—something were all guilty of—you’ll have managed the logistics but missed the heart of parenting. Make being a mom feel worthwhile, not just a perpetual exercise in schedule management.