If you are in my shoes, you know how difficult it is at times to be a pilot wife with little ones. If you are really in my shoes you know how difficult it is to find cute ones in size 11. Oh, and you would also know how difficult it is to be 6'1" and deal with this trend of 5" heels. That would make me 6'6" people...talk about Amazon woman. Wait, where was I?... Sometimes it comes down to basic survival to get through the day when your pilot is away. Yes, we have every intention of getting everything taken care of and planned before our pilot leaves, so that 4-days without him can go smoothly. But, that isn't always the case.
We have all gone out of our way to the grocery store that has the cool grocery carts for the kids, because we know that will make the trip that much easier for you. Or better yet, we have all gone through the drive-thru at the gas station to get basic staples like milk because you just don't want to get the kids unbuckled out of the car seats and battle with them in the store. We have also gone through the fast food drive through to get dinner...because that is all the strength you have.
With all the busyness and stress and weight that we have when our pilots are gone, there are times that we take the path of least resistance when it comes to dinner. Yes, I have microwaved Mac&Cheese for the kids one too many times. Yes, we eat out at times. Yes, sometimes we simply have crackers and cheese for dinner.
What am I getting to with all this? Let's talk dinner when our pilot is away. Let's also discuss food and nutrition, as this is something that has become increasing important to me over the last couple of months.
This all started last year when I watched Food Inc. Around that time my father-in-law had a surgery to remove plaque from his carotid artery. In addition, I also had a physical where I was able to talk with my PCP about health. All of this put together made me think more and more about food and health.
I am sure we have all heard of programs like Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives. Personally, I really REALLY like Joel Fuhrman MD, who wrote Eat to Live. I have read/watched all of the three just mentioned, and what did I get from all this? You are what you eat. Eat natural food. Eat real food. Give your body proper nutrition so that it can work for you. A body that is properly nourished can fight off disease. The next time I hear someone tell me that heart disease 'runs in the family' and there is nothing you can do about it, I will scream...that is, after I watch them eat another cheeseburger. A body that is properly nourished gives you health. Steve went the entire winter season without getting sick. With proper nutrition you are giving your body all the vitamins and minerals that is needs to give you the health and body that you want. Remember the FA that told Steve I was pretty? She also asked Steve if I worked out...no working out for me (I know I need to get back into it...) but I do watch my diet.
I want to add that when you eat foods that are nutritionally balanced, you don't have to worry about calories - your body would explode before you ate too many calories from broccoli. Did you know that 100 calories of broccoli has MORE protein than 100 calories of beef? When you eat this way you don't have to calorie count. Not that I ever have, but it makes me feel better knowing that I am not giving my body excess calories.
I hate when people talk about a "healthy diet" and all the eat is chicken and rice. What nutrition is there in chicken and rice? Sure there is some. My approach is to eat foods that actually fill you with good vitamins and minerals and antioxidants and phytochemicals...and all the other stuff that I don't totally understand, but I know are good for me. When you switch you brain from thinking "gosh I just ate 50 calories of carrots" to "gosh I just filled my body 407% of my daily value of vitamin k" you look at food in such a different way. Do you know how good vitamin K is for you? It protects your bones from fractures, it prevents calcification of blood vessels and heart valves. whfoods.org is a great resource to find out all this information!
I could go on and on about my thoughts on nutrition and how important it is, but I will spare you right now. I will urge you to look into this yourself, and discover this yourself. I am NOT a nutritionist so don't take what I say as fact, but I do have my beliefs from the materials I have explored and I want to share.
Because of all that I have read, we now keep animal protein to a minimum. We buy almond milk. I prepare one meat dish a week at home. I only use mozzarella cheese, which has less saturated fat than cheddar. I have increased our fruit, vegetable, bean, and nut intake considerably. Yes, we still have junk in the house like ice cream (but I tend to buy fruit sorbet over cream), and potato chips. I am such a salt lover. I do not restrict the kids diet at school. I am a libra, I am all about balance. I want to give my family what I feel is good for them, all the while not making them feel like they are missing out on things.
Having said all that, let's talk about what dinner looks like at our house when Steve is gone. If you are a pilot wife, you ALL know that our dinners look totally different 'with pilot' than 'without pilot'. When Steve is gone, dinners need to be quick and easy so that I can keep one eye on the kids while I am preparing things with the other eye. When Steve is home I have more time to prepare and cook since I am not distracted.
The inspiration for this post was actually dinner just the other night. On my way home from work, I ran through what I had in the pantry and was thinking about what I was going to make for dinner. Of course I was thinking "Well, Pizza Palace has the buy one get one...maybe I could do that!" But, I kept those bad thoughts away, and this is what I came up with:
Taco shells filled with refried beans, avocado and salsa. I also had pineapple and grapes on the table as well. Is it the most nutritious thing I could give me children? Maybe not entirely, but I am not superwoman so I make the best that I can with the time and resources I have. I am sure there are better alternatives to the taco shell, but I also pick my battles. Again, balance.
So, what are other healthy dinner options?
Simply prepare it by mixing it with black beans, salsa, and corn, if you feel like it. Of course add in some cumin and other seasoning. You have something easy, quick, and good for you.
Don't be intimidated by quinoa, just treat it like rice and you will be fine. Not only is it a complete protein, it is loaded with manganese which helps relax blood vessels and can help reduce migraine headaches. This stuff is loaded with 'good for you' stuff.
Try it mixed with some tofu, broccoli and some soy sauce - you now have a healthy, quick and easy meal. Alright, so the soy may be high in sodium, so don't use a lot. But, again I am about balance and the soy is what makes this meal manageable for me to prepare in the short amount of time I have when Steve is on the road.
As my father-in-law always says "beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot." Do not underestimate the power of beans. Did you know that red kidney beans are one of the foods ranked highest on the antioxidant list?! EAT MORE BEANS! Not only are they cheap, they are so good for you.
Here I just sauteed bell peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms together with some rice (to absorb the water), pinto beans, chickpeas and some soy sauce for flavor. So easy. So filling!
Are wraps super nutritious? Probably not. BUT, you can fill them with good stuff! Hummus, cucumbers, peppers, ect. Again, balance. With the need to keep meals quick and easy when your pilot is gone, you use your resources to the best of your ability. A wrap is like a blank slate to add tons of healthy stuff. The best thing about wraps are how quickly a meal can be prepared.
- hummus, avocado and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.
- refried beans, avocado and salsa
- hummus, cucumber and red pepper (do you know that cup for cup, a bell pepper has more Vitamin C than an orange?!)
You get the idea.
Don't think I am this perfect mom who serves my children the most perfect of meals every single time. That is not the case at all. There are plenty of times when I serve mac & cheese, because I just can't get the strength to do anything more. But, I do put flax seed in it...and I serve it with fruit.
I challenge you to think about your diet, and what you are feeding your kids. I know that there is so much to do on a daily basis, especially when your pilot is on a trip, but I urge you to understand how important good food is for you! If you don't want to go vegetarian, or stop serving sloppy joes and tater tots, that is your choice. But, at least make some little changes. Always have fresh fruit available for your kids. It is amazing how quickly an open bowl of clementines is eaten, simply because it is easy access. When you kids are watching a movie and want a snack, don't give them goldfish...give them strawberries! After dinner, cut up a cantaloupe and make that the snack available for the evening. Hello beta-carotene and Vitamin A!
I welcome any other recipes you may have! I am sure that with time I could accumulate a lot more recipes and pictures...in fact, maybe I will do that and make a new blog tab about that. I can't encourage you enough to explore the world of food nutrition. I have only had positive things come from the changes we have made with our diet, and I am sure you will experience the same changes too! It is never too early or too late to change things...all you need is the desire and drive to make your body as healthy as it can be.