Sometimes life is tiring. And sometimes when you need healthy food the most, you have the least amount of energy to make it. I should know — that's where I've been lately. My idea of a good use of time would be to bundle up the kids, grab my husband by the hand, hire a nanny and chef, and go to a warm beach where the kids can play all day, I can lay in the sun all day, and healthy food is brought to us regularly.
Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful fantasy?
A month of that treatment, and I’d be ready to jump back into life again with gusto — maybe. But since that healthy food/no work idea is likely to remain a distinct fantasy, I have been holding on to life’s coattails and been dragged forward through the regular, everyday life of school work, meals to prepare, house to clean, and blog posts to write. (Okay, I’ve been a little lax in the blog post area … and the house cleaning … and the meal planning lately, but I am trying to keep up with it!)
Because my energy has been so extremely low lately, and hasn’t gotten better even though I have taken time to rest and relax over the last two months, so I went to see a naturopathic doctor. He said I seemed healthy in the sense that he doesn’t think I have something serious like cancer, or an autoimmune disease, but he’s ordered a bunch of different tests to check thyroid and adrenal health, looking into my vitamin levels (A and D), and iron, and truthfully a bunch of other tests that I am not sure what they are for. I am trusting that he knows what he is doing. I won’t talk with him about the test results until all of them have gotten back to his office, so that’s another six weeks before we even know how to treat how I feel. (Until then, I will just be taking general supplements like a good multi-vitamin, and floradix for iron and cod liver oil).
So how to survive and try to cook at least somewhat healthy while dealing with fatigue? Some days are better than others, but here’s been what has been working for me.
1. Don’t stress
For someone who feels best eating tons of vegetables, plenty of protein, with a side of soup and homemade probiotic vegetables, it can feel pretty easy to be overwhelmed at the lack of some of those components. Good grief, it can be hard enough to just get anything on the table some nights! On the one hand I know that I feel best eating loads of vegetables, I know for this period of time, stressing over my lack of vegetables, or whatnot, is not going to help anything. Actually, does stress ever help any situation?
2. Make the best compromises
I prefer to not buy salad greens in big plastic bins because of the environmental issues with plastic packaged foods. But now is one of those times when I will because it’s an easy way to have a healthy salad on hand. All I do is make a big bottle of homemade dressing, and have prewashed lettuce on hand (and maybe some extra vegetables or meats to throw on top). I’ve actually been really thankful to have prewashed lettuce lately.
I removed any self-pressure to make homemade baked goods, and have organic blue chips and brown rice crackers on hand for packing in lunches or for snacks, and buy quality baked bread from the store. A compromise? For me, yes, but it allows me to use my limited energy toward putting together simple meals without stressing.
3. Remember the foods that don’t need to be prepared
Fruits are great because they are ready to go. We are loving our fall apples right now. Other seasons might find us chomping on oranges, and bananas are delicious too. Nuts can be easy too (though I do try to soak and dehydrate them), or apples with nut butter (like pumpkin seed butter) are a delicious combo. If we were less sensitive to dairy, raw cheese would be on the menu. But we have been enjoying Applegate pepperoni and salami lately, sometimes in a sandwich or with rice crackers, sometimes on its own.
My 6-year-old loves sardines, so I buy BPA-free canned sardines for an easy lunch or snack for her to go along with an apple, and perhaps crackers or toast and carrot sticks.
4. Simple dinners
Simple dinners have been an absolute necessity around here. One of my favorite recipes from my new soup cookbook (soon to be released!) is my Egyptian Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions. It takes just about 30 minutes to make, and we all love it (it’s frugal too). I made it twice last week. And I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times we have enjoyed a simple meat sauce over pasta these last two months too! That served with a large green salad has been a lifesaver more than once.
Throwing a whole chicken or a pot roast in a slow cooker with vegetables allows me to make dinner in the morning when my energy is best. Serving a simple side of steamed or roasted vegetables with brown rice or quinoa creates an easy meal that I don’t have to put a lot of thought into. I made some soups lately that allowed us several meals out of one meal preparation, another plus. I am thankful for simple meals.
5. Have healthier options for back-up plans
When you find yourself unable to make dinner for whatever reason, I think it’s good to have a couple of places in town that offer reasonably healthy meals for a decent price. We have found that certain ethnic restaurants offer several meals that we feel good about eating. One Lebanese restaurant in our area offers a lamb platter with rice that is HUGE. It feeds all of us. Since lamb is most always grass-fed, it makes a good choice. Another Lebanese restaurant offers grass-fed beef and rice platters too. A local higher-end grocery store offers decent whole roasted chicken and sides and a salad bar and deli options. These have allowed us “eating out” options that we feel okay about using. I know that’s not possible for everyone, and it can be an issue with finances too, but when you forgot to grocery shop and there is nothing fast to make at home, it can be nice to know that a somewhat frugal meal is just a couple minutes' drive away.
We all go through tired spells, especially mothers. Motherhood is rewarding, and hard, and mothers (and children) need good nutrition to thrive. But I’d also like to encourage those who find themselves in a situation of unrelenting, unexplained tiredness to try to get to the bottom of it. That’s what I am doing now. I am resting and not stressing about compromising my food ideals. But I also don’t plan on staying here.
What about you? Have you experienced extreme fatigue and conquered it? How do you cook healthy meals when tired?
Related healthy eating story on MNN: 5 easy recipes for busy homes
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