I did a lot of reading and procrastinating before finally deciding that our family needed to change our diet, because changing the way you’ve eaten your whole life is no easy task.

I was introduced to the GAPS diet last year when I posted about Charlie’s pickiness on my local parenting listserv. Then I discovered the awesome cookbook Nourishing Traditions and its website through Kristin, who also provided a great primer on the Paleo diet and raising a Paleo family in her recent guest post. Finally I read up the effects of wheat, how its composition has changed in the past century, and its effect on our bodies. All of these methods of eating are a little bit different, but the common theme is that we eat too many grains and processed foods, and not enough fresh meats, vegetables and fruits.

Charlie and Olive cooking pumpkin pie.

It just seemed to make a lot of sense to me. Charlie and Olive love processed food, bread and pasta, pretty much like all kids (and all adults for that matter). I used to rely heavily on carbs for easy, fast meals – pancakes, toast, cereal, bagels, and muffins for breakfast, nutrigrain bars as snacks, pasta for lunch or dinner — because I knew the kids would love it and eat it. But that also meant that they were filling up on grains, and eating less lean protein and produce. And the more grains they ate, the more they craved them.

I wanted Charlie to have a healthier, fresher diet, and hopefully address his constipation issues with dietary changes. I wanted Olive to have a broader palate and not end up becoming picky like her bother. And since Mr. Bee and I could definitely be eating much healthier to have more energy, lose weight, live longer, and set a good example for our kids, we recently decided to follow a Nourishing Traditions/Paleo lifestyle. The kids and I are more Nourishing Traditions, which allows dairy, rice and legumes, while Mr. Bee is more Paleo/Wheat Belly since he does not eat rice or gluten.

It’s definitely still an ongoing process, but we’ve eliminated processed and instant foods from our diet. We’ve reduced the amount of rice we consume, and eliminated most breads, pastas, and gluten. We’re avoiding products marketed as “gluten-free” because many of them do contain low levels of gluten, and are still highly processed. And we’re eating more lean meats, vegetables, and fruits than ever. We’re nowhere near perfect — I’m the one that cheats the most (and daily at that). But Mr. Bee is great at sticking to a diet, and the kids have no choice but to eat what I prepare. It’s not easy, but I really hope this is a healthy lifestyle change we can commit to forever.

The biggest challenge has actually been all the time investment. Between researching new recipes, grocery shopping, cooking, feeding the kids and cleaning up, I think I spend just as much time on food during the week as I do with the kids! So I’ve been thinking of a plan to hopefully streamline my cooking process in the next couple of weeks. This is what I’ve come up with:

  • The same breakfast. Eat pretty much the same breakfast every day that requires minimal cook time. The kids have been eating eggs with grated parmesan cheese fried in a little bit of butter, with some fruit like avocado or banana, or a yogurt.
  • The same lunches. Charlie gets a bento for lunch, and I pack the same things over and over so my process is pretty streamlined at the moment. It will be a little more difficult once Olive starts daycare because she eats more variety, and I want to prevent her from becoming picky like her brother.
  • Crockpot meals. I’d love to prepare at least one crockpot meal a week. I’ve tried tons of recipes, but none have been big hits with my picky brood. Chili is a great crockpot meal that freezes well, but I’m on the lookout for a good bean-free recipe.
  • Cooking for the weekend. We pretty much never eat out as a family of four, but that means I have to cook three meals every Saturday and Sunday. That’s been really tough to do because we’re usually out and about at the playground, on a playdate or some adventure, so I’d love to cook meals for the entire weekend on Fridays.
  • Making your own stock. I’ve been making my own stock using the Nourishing Traditions recipe. It’s a lot of work and it’s honestly way more expensive than buying stock when you’re using an organic free-range chicken, but having my own stock on hand has really changed the way I cook. I freeze it in small portions, and use it for everything now! The best part is that it’s soooo good for you, and Charlie and Olive love it. When Charlie doesn’t want to eat, he will at least drink my nourishing, homemade, organic chicken stock, which makes me feel better when he doesn’t eat much for dinner.
  • One pot meals & casseroles. I hardly ever used my oven because I mostly cooked Korean food my entire life, which doesn’t use the oven at all. But I’ve recently discovered the glory of the one pot meal or casserole. Toss all your protein and veggies into a casserole dish and bake. No need to stand over the stove, wash a ton of pots and pans, or worry about over/undercooking! Brilliant! Since using the oven is new to me, I’ve been trying lots of new recipes — some are hits and some aren’t. I’d love to have at least 5 casserole recipes that my family loves in rotation for easy dinners.
  • Freezer meals. We have a small separate freezer so I batch cook and freeze a lot of food, particularly Korean soups. I always have something in our freezer that we can eat. Lately I’ve added mini meatballs to my frozen stash. They’re wonderful! You can freeze them raw or cooked, they freeze so well, and both Charlie and Olive love them. But what I really want to add is freezer meals where I batch prepare a bunch of dishes at once — ie chicken, veggies, herbs — and put them in gallon-sized ziploc bags and freeze them. Then I can defrost them in the fridge overnight, put everything in a casserole dish and bake. Once I really have this method down, I’m hoping I can reduce the number of nights I cook from 7 to 3.
  • Meal plan. Since I’ve been trying so many new recipes lately, it’s been really difficult to meal plan. Meal planning saves so much time, makes grocery shopping easier, and takes the stress out of what you should make for dinner. It’s something I’ve never been very good with, but now that we have a family of four, I don’t think I can afford not to meal plan. It’s been so much more work to feed two kids!

As a busy mom, I want to take as many cooking shortcuts as I can, without sacrificing nutrition.

Do you have any cooking shortcuts you take to reduce the amount of time you spend on food prep and cooking? And have you changed the way your family eats since having kids?

Paleo! part 7 of 7

1. Paleo Baby! by Kristin @ Paleo Plus One
2. Whole30 Adventure - Part I by Mrs. Deer
3. My Whole30 Experience (So Far...) by Mrs. High Heels
4. The Whole30 Made Easy by Mrs. High Heels
5. Toddler Paleo Lunches by Kristin @ Paleo Plus One
6. The Wonderful Pressure Cooker by Kristin @ Paleo Plus One
7. Changing the Way We Eat by Mrs. Bee