The Healthy Dinner Dilemma

No matter who you are, eating is something you probably do several times a day.  If you are mindful of what kinds of food you eat, it is something you probably plan out.  And if you have a family, it is something you do several times a day and definitely have to plan out, to some degree.

Planning food shopping and meals can take up a huge amount of time.  I’ve tried to find ways over the years to make the process as quick, easy, affordable, and healthy as possible.  No, I’m not perfect and my family doesn’t eat gourmet plant-based meals every day, but all things considered, I’m happy with our meals 75% of the time.

Here are a few tips and tricks I use to make mealtime easier and more enjoyable for everyone:


Find acceptance for your mealtime abilities – The reality is that Monday through Thursday, I’m tired, I have to work the next day, and I might not feel like doing much in the kitchen after a long day at work.  I have to let myself off the hook.  OK, so there are people on Pinterest or Instagram showing pictures of fabulous, tasty, healthy meals they made. Good for them, but I have to accept that 90% of the time, that’s not my reality.  It’s OK.

Use Out of Milk or a similar app to organize shopping and meal lists – This has been a major win for me.  I started using the Out of Milk app a few months ago, and it is so good that I’d pay for it.  As soon as I run out of something, I immediately put it on my shopping list.  Then, when it’s time to do my big grocery shopping trips, I add meal items to my shopping list.  The app categorizes all my shopping items (produce, bakery, frozen, etc) so that I can easily see everything I need to purchase from a particular section of the grocery store.  Additionally, I use the To-Do section of the app to keep track of all the meals I have planned.  I never have to think, “What can I make for dinner tonight?!” I simply pull up my Meal List on the app and see all the meals I planned to make.  To make things even better, I can access a complete list of all the meals I’ve ever made.  That way, if I need meal inspiration, I just look back at all the dinners I’ve previously made and choose which ones are our favorites to add back to the list.

Use an online grocery shopping service – We have used Kroger’s Clicklist multiple times now with fairly good success.  There are other similar services from other grocery stores – you go to the website to add items to your virtual cart and select a pickup time when an employee will bring the bagged groceries to your car.  This service is excellent when I don’t want to spend 1-2 hours on a grocery shopping trip.  On the website, I either browse through items in a particular category (“frozen vegetables”, for example) or I type a specific item in the search bar and go directly to that item and add to my cart.  Occasionally there will be items I’ve ordered that are out of stock, but the store will substitute an equivalent item if you wish, at no extra charge.  The fee for online grocery shopping varies, but for Clicklist it’s only a few dollars – which is worth it to us.

Rethink your approach to dinner – Does dinner have to come from a “recipe”? Must a meal include cooking/baking to be considered a meal?  Are you somehow a less caring parent or partner because the food was very simple and quick?  Absolutely not!  Sometimes our dinners are as simple as baked potatoes, frozen broccoli, and pasta.

Keep a list of the most simple meals possible – I know for a fact that at least once or twice every week I will need an incredibly simple dinner plan.  I accept that and plan accordingly.  At any given time I will have simple dinners I can put together with minimal time and effort.  Here are a few of our go-to’s:

  • Spaghetti and marinara – option of adding veggies, vegan meat, or beans
  • Taco bar – tortillas, beans, lettuce, tomato, guacamole – whatever you like!
  • Pizzadillas – tortilla with pizza sauce, cheese of choice, toppings of choice, brown in skillet
  • Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese – mix it up with different types of bread and cheese
  • Deluxe Veggie Burgers & Baked Fries – frozen vegan burgers, toppings, buns, and baked fries
  • Zucchini & Corn Pasta – sauteed zucchini and corn added to pasta; throw in some sauteed tempeh, vegan butter, and seasonings
  • Beans & Weiners – incredibly simple – vegan hot dogs with baked beans (homemade or canned)
  • Summer Salad –  I’m loving romaine topped with avocado, strawberries, walnuts, vegan chicken, and mango vinaigrette

What do you do to make dinner planning and meal prep easy and healthy?  Tell me in the comments!

Baby #2: Second Trimester Musings

Now I’m in my third trimester – not quite ready for baby yet, but the end is in sight for my pregnancy.  It’s mostly an awe-inspiring and overwhelming feeling to know that we are going to have a new baby in our lives very soon.  My second trimester was full of different feelings and issues than my first trimester (read about my first trimester here).

Symptoms, Issues & Body Changes

  • Pain – Sciatica – I noticed around week 18 that I was having a new pain in the left side of my back and hip that sometimes would travel down my butt and upper thigh.  It was nearly debilitating for a couple of weeks while I was working full-time and trying to get relief.  On the recommendation of my doula, I started going to a chiropractor who not only is a mom herself, but knows how to specifically treat pregnant women.  After the first session, I was shocked that I had immediate relief.  I’ve gone back several times but I can’t believe the difference it has made.


  • Weight Gain – By the start of my 3rd trimester (28 weeks), I’d gained roughly 20 pounds.  Not too little, not too much.  I originally hoped to only gain 25 pounds total, but I’d already hit that around 32 weeks.  Now I’m hoping for a total gain of 30 pounds or so.  I might not succeed, but it’s a goal.


  • Baby Movements – On a typical day there are lots of baby movements, but not necessarily all day long.  Some days I won’t feel movement for a while, then I’ll have a five or ten minute period of intense movement.  It’s not so much straightforward kicking, but more rolling and pushing on the outside and internal pushing/pressure.  Often baby will push on my bladder and boy does it burn!


  • Fatigue – I haven’t had terrible fatigue (knock on wood) but some days I do feel it.  I’m trying to walk every night, and I notice by the time my 20 minute walk is done, my body is ready for a break.  The extra weight and pull of my body makes even simple walking more challenging.


  • Sleep – I typically go to bed by 9 p.m. and wake up between 6:30 and 7:30.  Between those hours, I might wake up 2-4 times to use the restroom, and briefly wake up to roll over 6-10 times.  I’m handling it pretty well, which is good because I’ll need to wake up plenty when the baby is born.


  • Bump Size – At my last appointment my fundal height was measuring exactly on target for where I was in my pregnancy.  During both 2nd trimester ultrasounds, baby was in right around the 50th percentile.  I definitely look pregnant, but I don’t think I’m extraordinarily big in the belly.


  • Mood Swings and Anxiety – After the shock of pregnancy wore off after the first few weeks, I sailed through pregnancy with no anxiety at all.  Having struggled off and on with depression and anxiety my whole life, I was very happy about this.  However here and there lately, I’ve had bits of anxiety about impending birth.  Sometimes I’ll find myself feeling a bit weepier than normal.  Nothing too intense and it passes within 15 or 20 minutes.


New Habits I’ve Adopted

  • Mindfulness – This is what sticks out to me when I think of new habits for my pregnancy.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading in preparation for natural childbirth, and I try to fill my mind with awareness, calm, acceptance, and positive thinking.


Pregnancy Favorites

  • Snoogle – I couldn’t sleep without this pillow.  I tuck it between my upper thighs and it goes all the way to my ankles.  It is so comfy to snuggle with this every night.  It does take up a lot of room in bed, but it’s worth it.  It really helps with sciatica and muscle cramps.


  • Ina May Gaskinher book “Guide to Childbirth” and her Tedx Talk – Her book was invaluable in giving me insight and confidence into a birth without medical intervention.  The personal birth stories were empowering.  The other half of the book was informative and factual information about childbirth, practices, and insight into having a low/no-intervention birth.



  • Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke – I just finished this book and really enjoyed its insights into staying mindful during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  The book I just started reading is Hypnobirthing by Marie F. Mongan.


  • Organic decaf coffee – I love a cup of coffee every morning, and about 3 or 4 times a month, my husband and I stop at Starbucks.  I always have organic decaf at home and the office, and when at Starbucks I have been getting either a plain decaf Frappuchino or, when it was colder, a hot decaf.


Now that my pregnancy is down to a few weeks, I’m trying to finish buying all the necessities, get the house prepared, and get myself mentally prepared.  I still have to wash clothes and cloth diapers, pack a hospital bag and diaper bag, install the car seat,  and clean second-hand baby items like the bassinet and swing. The countdown is on for baby #2 and although part of me is overwhelmed, I’m also really excited to meet our baby!

If you’re pregnant or have a little one, I’d love to know your most used and loved products for the first few months!