It was late, I was tired. And I was hungry. I dropped my purse at the door and shuffled over to the kitchen and opened the fridge. Nothing.
John was deployed, I was an emotional wreck, teaching was hard that day, and didn’t I just deserve Pizza Boli’s today?
I reached for my phone. I’m not going to say that Pizza Boli’s was in my speed dial… but Pizza Boli’s was in my speed dial.
If you are anything like me, you probably have done the call-of-shame more than once during a deployment. If you’re exactly like me, you’ve probably done the call-of-shame many, many times.
Military spouses and significant others often have a tough time with managing healthy diets during deployments. Many of us spend a lot of time taking care of other people that we don’t often have time for ourselves. For those with kids, it’s even tougher to wrangle some free time to go grocery shopping, meal plan, or even have a free hand to make dinner with. Add in the emotional stress. Add in work.
It’s a wonder we don’t just face-plant into a carton of ice cream and call it a day.
Just kidding, I think we’ve all done this too. Probably more than once. Or twice.
I’ll be really honest: I did not live a healthy life when John was deployed. I slept for hours and hours and hours… or I didn’t sleep at all. I went to the gym consistently, but I wasn’t kind to my body afterward. I drowned my loneliness and fear in take-out and junk food. It’s no surprise that I ended up getting enormously sick with strep throat. And then I got sick again. And again.
We joke about everything breaking and going off the rails once dude (or chica) has deployed. It’s funny because it’s true, and often the things that happen are things we can’t anticipate– the dishwasher breaking, the car blowing a tire– but some of those things are our own doing, even when we don’t realize we’re sabotaging ourselves.
Most of us want to eat healthy. I’m not talking about going on a full tree-bark-and-salt diet or only eating foods available in 1850, or anything else like that. I’m talking about getting enough fruits and veggies, drinking a lot of water, eating healthy proteins and carbs, and sneaking in that brownie every once in awhile.
Most of us want easy, too, especially when you’re not feeling like yourself.
And most of us want tasty. Because we’re people with taste buds, and why not?
So this is what I did to change my habits.
Stock the good stuff
I know me.
I know that I have a sweet tooth and I WILL find the tiniest bit of sugar in my house and some how make it into a dessert if I don’t have something. I will eat chocolate chips out of the bag. I make a single serving portion of peanut butter frosting and eat it with pretzels.
It’s just better and healthier for me to actually have the good stuff on hand because the “good stuff” has nutrition labels which makes it a lot easier to watch what I’m eating. Because that single-serving portion of frosting really turns into a generous tub of it very, very easily.
I do this with healthy food too. I stock the healthy foods I know I will eat and can eat on the go. Strawberries and raspberries are always a fixture in our fridge. Bananas are God’s single-serve convenience food. Grapes? Yes, please.
I do the same thing veggies, yogurts, and snacks. When I have healthy, good options, I’ll eat them. If there’s some shriveled up lettuce and a gross kiwi (I hate kiwis!) in the fridge, I will avoid them like the plague and fill up on Thin Mints instead.
Have a plan
Make a list of easy dinners. For me, that’s a huge salad. I can change out the toppings and put it together faster than it takes the delivery guy to bring up my sushi. (Spicy crab meat and shrimp tempura, if you were wondering.)
I also keep canned soup and some easy-peasy-pumpkin-squeasy possibilities (like frozen pierogies!) available that I can heat or bake in a flash.
Because sometimes 90-second rice takes too long… That’s mostly a joke, but also, being hangry is real.
My backup is always having a few Healthy Choice dinners stowed away in my freezer, just in case putting a salad together doesn’t sound appealing, or I’m really, really, really tempted to call out or go to a restaurant. They take about 4 minutes to make, are filling, have low calorie counts, and are made from actual, real ingredients. Make a little salad, add some fruit and a brownie (I am not joking about my sweet tooth), and you have a nutritious choice far better than a frozen pizza or call out.
Whenever I call out I feel like I’m “treating” myself, so when I stock frozen dinners, I try to make them super appealing and in that “I’m a lady of luxury” vein. While all of the Healthy Choice Simply Cafe Steamers (there are a dozen options) are less than 310 calories, I really like the Chicken Fried Rice. It quenches my taste for takeout without making me regret a meal high in calories and fat later. And by the way, all Healthy Choice’s products are approved as “healthy” by the FDA. It’s the only frozen food brand to have that designation.
Making a nutritious choice is about the decision to actually make one. It’s putting down the phone and opening up the fridge or freezer. But it’s also about making a plan that works for you. For me, that means having fresh, tasty choices with a back-up just in case I need a break.
How do you do healthy dinners during deployments and separations?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.