As an Army wife (who happens to be a Registered Dietitian) I understand how eating habits can change while your spouse is gone. You may not feel like putting as much effort into preparing large, intricate meals after a busy day handling the kids and other responsibilities solo. Perhaps you start eating out more, or eating more convenience foods. As one spouse asked me, “hot dogs three times a week never killed anyone, right?”
Well, they might not kill you, but there are plenty of easy ways to maintain a healthy diet while your servicemember is gone … and eating hotdogs three times a week may not be one of them. You want to continue to look and feel your best, as well as provide your kids with the nutrition they need to grow.
Here are five general tips to keep in mind for healthy eating during deployment:
1. Cook large quantities of food at one time and save leftovers. This way, you won’t have to cook as often.
2. Reach out to other spouses and cook together or have pot-luck dinner nights. Make a tradition to share meals once a week.
3. Plan ahead the meals for the week and make a shopping list. This prevents the daily dilemma of deciding what to make for dinner, and it ensures that you have all the ingredients you’ll need. Try frozen or canned fruits and vegetables for convenience.
4. Involve your kids in food preparation! Although your spouse is gone, you can still enlist some help. Choose age-appropriate tasks such as setting the table, washing and chopping vegetables, or measuring ingredients.
5. Don’t forget to maintain an exercise routine. It could be anything from starting Zumba classes with a friend to simply going for a daily walk. This will help regulate your appetite, boost your mood, and improve your overall health.
By the way: resorting to cereal, pre-packaged meals, or eating out is OK every once in a while, but try to make sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Often, frozen entrée items and pre-mixed items (such as macaroni and cheese or other meals-in-a-box) contain high amounts of salt and fewer nutrients than if you made it from scratch.
Preparing healthy food while your spouse is deployed is easier than you think. You don’t have to cook for hours each day to make well-rounded meals, simply follow some of the tips provided for convenient and healthy eating! For more nutrition information and tips, check out this helpful website.
Chrissy Vimini is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian currently located at Fort Bliss, TX. Originally from Maryland, she works as a clinical dietitian at an El Paso medical center and also provides nutrition counseling. Find her on Twitter at @CVimRD or her blog “Mission: Dietitian”.