We get it. Life is fast and furious, teetering on the edge of crazy at times. For most busy mothers, placing healthy eating on top of a growing to-do list can often feel impossible. Between the spouse, the kids, the job and the dog; the potty breaks, runny noses, daycare and drop-offs, adding one more item to that ever-expanding list can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Perhaps the solution isn’t finding food to fit your busy schedule, but instead slowing down where it matters most, like building healthy habits—planning, cooking, and eating together. Sometimes, it’s not just about the food!

Good nutritional habits start in the home. Jane Wardle of the University of London, in her article Parental influences on children’s diets, states that food habits are developed in childhood and if made poorly can lead to negative, long-term health effects. Put simply, the things you liked as a child can become lifelong patterns. In this article, you won’t find a list of what you should and shouldn’t eat because let’s face it—you probably already know. Instead, consider the following suggestions to help you slow down and enrich your family’s eating experience.

1. Keep it simple:

Set yourself up for success by scheduling time each week to plan healthy meals. Keep your recipes, grocery list and coupons in the same place to make planning and budgeting easier. Check your fridge and pantry to see what you already have. Look into easy make-ahead meals to cook in quantity and keep frozen for day-of preparation. Crockpot meals are another great alternative as they require very little time on your end. And remember the cardinal rule of grocery shopping: not to do so hungry, unless you want your shopping experience to resemble the zombie apocalypse.

2. Enjoy the moments:

Get your kids in the kitchen! They’ll be more excited about eating healthy foods when they’ve been involved. Have family members check out cookbooks or online recipe collections and have them choose a few new recipes try out. When cooking, give them age-appropriate tasks and keep a step stool handy. Another added benefit is you’ll have more control over ingredients and portion sizes. For new parents, bring baby and take a visit to your local farmer’s market. The added sunshine and exercise will do your postpartum body good. Not ready to venture out? You can also look into local delivery services supplying groceries or ready made healthy meals and ingredients.

3. Create a positive environment:

In an article for Eating Disorder Hope, Dena Cabrera, PsyD, states, “We know that children excel emotionally and academically in an environment in which they feel loved and safe. The dinner table is a terrific venue for providing this kind of safety.” She suggests making it a rule for the family to eat at least one meal together per day. Keep the conversation positive. The child will associate the context of the meal with positive feelings, which in turn promote a healthy relationship with food. What’s more, recent studies link regular family dinners with lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem.

Slowing down and tuning up your focus to making memories and not just food can help bring balance to a busy home. Food may not seem like a time-worthy issue, but good nutritional choices can afford you and your family the hours, days, and years that poor dietary habits cannot. But remember not to bite off more than you can chew—unless, of course, it’s cake!

What kind of healthy eating habits do you have for your family? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on our Facebook page!