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What Is the Best Diet for Busy Moms?  The answer is simple

Losing weight can be challenging, and even more so when you’re a busy mom.  From time constraints to picky eaters, there are many reasons why it’s a struggle to find the best diet for busy moms that fits within our often chaotic lifestyle.

But what if I told you you could lose weight without restrictive dieting?  YES!!  I know it’s possible because I’ve done it myself and in this post, I will share with you how I’ve lost both pounds and inches and have not stopped eating any of the foods that I love.  

Read on for my simple approach to the best diet for busy moms and learn real-life strategies that will help you lose weight and develop healthy eating habits for the long term.

The Best Diet for Busy Moms is Simple

Is it okay to want to lose weight?

You may find yourself stuck somewhere between wanting to lose weight, but feeling bad admitting it to yourself or anyone else because there is so much noise out there about toxic diet culture, practicing body positivity, and loving the body you’re in no matter what it looks like.

It can be confusing and leave us questioning if wanting to lose weight is wrong in some way.  Does it mean we don’t love our bodies?

I agree that it can be a real problem when you become obsessive about food and let dieting control your life and determine your self-worth.  But wanting to lose weight because it will give your confidence a boost or help you to have more energy and feel better physically, is totally okay.  

I’m sure there are many of you who feel down on yourself for still carrying a little extra pregnancy weight.  Or perhaps you’ve been too busy to pay attention to your body’s hunger cues and do a lot of mindless eating like finishing your kids’ leftovers on the regular🙋🏻‍♀️.  

Maybe you’ve been struggling to find the time to exercise and have generally been neglecting your self-care.  Your clothes may be fitting tighter and you’re feeling sluggish throughout the day.

Any of these reasons are valid for wanting to lose weight in order to help you feel your best.  Know that you have autonomy over your body and your choices as it relates to weight loss and physical fitness.

In a nutshell, you can love and appreciate your body and still want to lose weight. It’s possible for these two ideas to coexist healthily – to love and accept your body, but still want to improve it.

So whether you have a specific weight loss goal in mind or simply want to do a better job of making healthy choices, the tips in this post are for you!

Related:  “How to Love Your Body Just the Way It Is”

Why is it hard to lose weight as a busy mom?

There is a myriad of reasons why it’s hard to lose weight as a busy mom.

Time constraints and scheduling

Oftentimes it’s our schedule, or more likely our kids’ schedules, that dictate our meal times and the likelihood that we can find much time to plan and prepare healthy meals.  

Literally every night this week, one of my kids has had a sports practice right in the middle of dinner time.  On the weekends, we run from soccer game to baseball game and back to soccer.  The easiest and most convenient lunch option is often stopping for fast food in between all the hustling.

If you’re a working mom, weekday schedules are even more challenging.  As soon as the day starts, you’re getting the kids ready for school or daycare and rushing to get out the door with little spare time to grab anything more than a bagel for your own breakfast on your way to work.

Let’s not forget about the amount of juggling involved once you finish work for the day and have to pick up your kids and figure out how to get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time.  

This is often in between or coinciding with sports practices and other extracurricular activities for the older kids and involves deciding between cooking a healthy meal, trying to squeeze in a workout before dinner, or waiting to eat dinner until after 8 pm in order to fit it all in.

Family expectations

When you’re tasked with providing meals that everyone at the table will like, including picky little ones, sometimes healthy eating habits go out the window.

Finding healthy meals that appeal to the whole family can be a real challenge and many of us end up making more than one meal to cater to our picky children’s finicky likes and dislikes.  

And how about our husbands?  They have certain expectations too. I remember a friend who once told me that her husband expects meat at every dinner so a salad or vegetarian dinner option would never fly in her home.

The struggle to make meals that the entire family can get on board with is valid and oftentimes holds us back from eating a healthy diet, even if we want to. 


Let’s be real – being a mom is hard and it can be stressful! 

Between being a nurturing mother, maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner, excelling in your career, and managing a household, it can be overwhelming and difficult to balance it all at times.  

This is not to say that fathers don’t share in this, but mothers often carry the bulk of it when it comes to childcare and household responsibilities.  

How do many women deal with stress?  Many of us stress eat to deal with our emotions and wind up over-eating and/or consuming foods that we don’t need or even truly want.

Think about how many times have you absentmindedly eaten a whole bag of chips as you numbed your mind with an episode of your favorite reality show or reached for a chocolate bar or pint of ice cream because you were feeling sad or anxious. 

Related:  “How to Make Life Easier (and Less Stressful for You AND Your Family)”

How do busy moms eat healthy?

We’ve discussed why it’s hard for moms to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet, but it is certainly possible.  So how do we do it?

What are some healthy habits busy moms can incorporate into their daily routines in order to eat healthily, lose weight, and maintain it?   

Because let’s talk honestly for a minute about all these “trendy” diets out there.  Any diet where you restrict a certain food group or drastically reduce your caloric intake is going to work.  But it’s only going to work for as long as you’re willing to restrict yourself.  

You can’t realistically do Keto or intermittent fasting for the rest of your life. Motivation will only get you so far and eventually, you’ll “fall off the wagon” and then feel bad when you gain back the weight you had lost, and possibly even more.

We’re moms – our lives are full and busy.  We don’t have time to waste on quick-fix diets that only work in the short term.  We need something simple and lasting.

As such, the most effective diet and the key to long-term weight loss is to make lifestyle changes that you can sustain and that fit your busy life.  

You want to develop habits that make it as easy as possible to eat a balanced diet that includes the nutrition that your body needs and also the foods you enjoy and want to eat.  

We’ll get into that more later in the post, but first, let’s discuss some core principles related to healthy eating habits that are important for you to adopt before embarking on a weight loss or diet plan.

9 Healthy Eating Habits for Busy Moms

1.) Simplify whenever possible

In order to make things as easy for you as possible, ideally the entire family should eat the same meals.  

I know this can be a real challenge with small kids and picky eaters.  In my family, we don’t usually eat the same breakfast or lunch, but I refuse to make more than one dinner.

As dinner is usually the largest meal of the day and the most time-consuming to make, I suggest that you don’t drive yourself crazy making one dinner for yourself and something completely different for your kids and husband.  

The best way to accomplish this is to make modifications and simple substitutions where necessary.  For example, if I make a dinner that includes white rice, which my family loves, I’ll sometimes choose to make myself riced cauliflower instead OR I will just eat a smaller portion of the rice and load up on extra veggies.

If you have really little ones who will only eat “kid food”, then at a minimum, try to make the same meal for you and your husband.  

2.) Planning and preparation are key

The most important part of any diet involves planning and preparation.  You have to plan out your meals and snacks if you want to succeed.  There is no going around it.

You don’t want to be making game-time decisions about what to eat when you’re hungry because when we’re hungry we often reach for whatever is easiest.  Therefore, it’s imperative to plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time so that healthy options are readily available and accessible. 

You want to plan ahead and be prepared.  This includes ordering your groceries each week or going to the supermarket so that you have healthy snacks on hand and the ingredients you’ll need for all your meals.  

This also means anticipating when you might be hungry for a snack or meal and planning what you’ll eat, especially when you know you’ll be running around with your kids or out doing family activities. 

Most moms never forget to pack a snack for their kids, but we often forget about ourselves.  You probably don’t want to be snacking on goldfish, so make sure to plan out and bring a healthy snack for yourself as well. 

3.) No foods are forbidden

It’s not about restricting certain foods or labeling some foods as “bad” or “forbidden”.  This restrictive mentality is not healthy or sustainable.  

When you create categories of “good foods” that you allow yourself and “bad foods” that you forbid, you wind up overindulging in those forbidden foods and then getting down on yourself for it.  

It’s human nature that we always want what we can’t have so you’re going to want it even more if you tell yourself you can’t have certain foods like ice cream, pizza, or french fries.  

Of course, your food choices matter and it’s important to understand how the foods you choose to eat fit into your overall meal plan, but everything in balance and moderation is perfectly fine.  

In fact, allowing yourself to eat the foods you enjoy most is how you maintain a healthy weight for the long term.  

4.) Look at the big picture

If you “mess up” on your healthy eating plan, forgive yourself and move on.  Letting the occasional slip-up completely sabotage your efforts is silly and counter-intuitive.  

If I have a day where I get off track with my healthy eating, I just make sure to get back on track the next day.  I’m looking to sustain my healthy eating habits for the long run, so I know I won’t be perfect all the time, and giving up on my healthy eating because I overindulged at one meal, or even for an entire day, is short-sighted.

Remember, there are no “bad” foods and what you eat overall affects your ability to lose weight, not what you eat in one meal or over the course of one day.  Don’t forget to look at the big picture.

5.) Eat when hungry

Listen to your body’s hunger cues and eat when you feel hungry, not according to when the clock says it’s time for a meal.  

For example, I don’t particularly like breakfast food and I’m often not hungry until late morning.  Therefore, I don’t usually eat breakfast until hours after I wake up, once I actually feel hungry.

This rule of thumb also works the other way around too.  If you’re hungry between meal times, you absolutely should eat a snack.  

You don’t want to starve yourself because it’s really hard to stick with a healthy diet plan if you’re always hungry and denying yourself food.  Furthermore, not eating when your body is cueing hunger can slow down your metabolism and ultimately make it harder to lose weight.

6.) Drink water, water, and then even more water

It’s so important to stay hydrated when trying to lose weight.  Oftentimes, you will eat more than necessary because your body thinks you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty.

The recommendation is that you should drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day or at least eight 8 oz glasses of water (or 64 oz total).  

One way we can drink more water is to cut out soda and other sugary drinks that cause us to consume a large number of unnecessary calories with zero nutritional value.  Those calories could be much better spent on a healthy snack or even a treat like a few cookies or a small dessert after dinner.

I’m at the point where besides my morning coffee, I drink nothing but water all day long.  It’s a super simple way to reduce your daily calories when trying to lose weight and hydration aids in weight loss as well.

7.) Take your time eating and check in with yourself

It takes at least 20 minutes from when you start eating for your brain to trigger feelings of fullness (source: WebMD).  Thus, try to wait 20 minutes from the time you start your meal before helping yourself to a second serving.

This is the amount of time you need to give your brain to catch up with your stomach and gauge if you’re still hungry, satisfied, or full.  The goal is to eat to the point of feeling satisfied, not overly full.

8.) Set realistic weight-loss goals

It may seem obvious to set realistic weight-loss goals, but make sure you’re clear on what is realistic and healthy.  Losing weight too quickly can jeopardize your health.

To lose weight in a healthy way, a smart goal is to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. Generally speaking, you’d need to eliminate 500 to 1,000 calories through diet and exercise each day in order to do so (source: Mayoclinic).  

9.) Exercise is your friend

Losing weight has to do with using or burning more calories than you take in on a daily basis.  

Cutting out 500-1,000 calories each day from your diet is not easy, but when you combine that with the calories you burn from exercise, it becomes much more achievable.  Thus exercise is your friend in your weight loss efforts.

That is not to say that if you can’t exercise or miss a day of working out that you should reduce your calorie intake further.  Don’t use exercise as a punishment.

On a side note, I have found that on the days I exercise, I’m actually less hungry and I also feel more motivated to eat healthily throughout the day.

9 Healthy Eating Habits for Busy Moms

Do you have to exercise in order to lose weight?

Now I know that some of you are thinking that you have a job and multiple kids and million things to do every day.  You don’t have time to exercise.

The good news is that nutrition is 80% of the battle when it comes to losing weight, but as I explained above, making a concerted effort to add exercise to your routine will only help your efforts.

Plus, we know physical activity is not only good for our physical health, but also our mental health.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to exercise if you want to lose weight, however, adding exercise to the mix will most definitely help to accelerate your weight loss.

Finding Time to Exercise as a Busy Mom:

If you’re low on time, here are some ways to squeeze in more physical activity as a busy mom.  It’s all about finding those “hidden opportunities” for movement in your busy day.

  • Park farther away from the store or office so you have to spend more time walking
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator or the elevator whenever it’s an option
  • Walk across the office to talk to a co-worker instead of sending an email 
  • Walk or bike with the kids to school instead of driving
  • Use a jogging stroller to run with your baby or toddler (often results in a nice nap for the little one!)
  • Walk on your lunch break or spend the time during your kids’ sports practices walking  around the sports complex or fields
  • Do a quick workout at home while your little one is napping
  • Find activities to do with your kids – take your kids for a 15 to 30-minute daily walk or bike ride (young kids can sit in a baby seat or trailer), go outside to run around and play, go on hikes, do mommy & me yoga classes, have a fast-paced dance party in your living room.
  • Meet up with a mom friend for a daily stroller walk

Related:  “The #1 Secret You Need to Commit to Fitness in the New Year (plus 4 bonus tips!)”

7 Steps to the Best Diet for Busy Moms

Hopefully, by now you are clear on the general principles of how to establish healthy eating habits that can help you lose weight.

Next, let’s get into the specific steps to take when starting a new diet plan.

1.) Establish a daily calorie goal

In order to lose weight, we know that we have to burn more calories than we consume.  So how do you figure out how many calories to eat each day?

Most women need 1,600–2,400 daily calories to maintain their current weight (see chart below based on age) and in order to lose weight at a healthy pace (1-2 pounds per week), you’ll want to reduce your daily calories by 500-1000 through diet and added physical activity.

(source:  Healthline)

It’s a bit tricky to figure out exactly how many calories you should eat, as it depends on a variety of factors, including your age, body type and current weight, as well as your activity level.  

To get an idea, you can try a simple scientific calorie calculator, which will calculate the calories your body needs in order to maintain your existing weight at your current activity level and will also show you what your daily calorie goal should be to lose weight at an average pace, as well as at a rapid pace.  

It’s just an estimate, but it’s a good place to start.  I’d suggest aiming for the higher number of calories to start and seeing how you do.

2.) Track your daily calories

Once you have your daily calorie goal, the next step is to start tracking how many calories you consume and also how many calories you expend through exercise in order to understand your “net calories”.  Your net calories for the day should match the daily calorie goal for your diet that you’ve set above.

One way to calculate our net calories is by keeping a written daily food and activity log.  You will write down the calories of what you eat for all meals and snacks and also the calories you burn through physical activity and then subtract the activity calories from the total food calories to get your net calories for the day.

If this sounds complicated or time-consuming, I’ve found the easiest way is to use an app like MyFitnessPal or MyPlate Calorie Counter that will do all the computation for you!  

The beauty is that you can search their huge databases for all kinds of foods with calorie information already stored, and also save your favorite foods and recipes, which aids in meal planning, which we’ll discuss next.

Using a tracker app also helps you see that not all calories are created equally.  Sure, you can eat 6 Oreos for 300 calories and find yourself hungry an hour later or you can use those calories to eat a nutritious lunch that will leave you satisfied for the rest of the afternoon.

Something to keep in mind is that while using any type of calorie tracker tool, whether a digital app or written food log, is a great way to get started, once you’re comfortable in knowing what to eat on a daily basis that fits within your target calorie range, you really should stop using the trackers.  

They get tedious, but more importantly, you don’t want to become reliant on them, or obsessed with tracking and calculating the calories of every morsel of food that touches your lips.  That can lead to obsessive behavior and an unhealthy relationship with food.

3.) Weekly meal planning

We mentioned that planning and prep are key to succeeding on a weight loss journey.  There are many ways to go about it, but I will share what has been working for me.

You want to set yourself up so that you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat once you find yourself hungry and ready for a meal or snack.  To avoid this, spend 10-20 minutes every Sunday creating a meal plan for the week.

Take a look at your schedule for the upcoming week and take note of any activities that will conflict with meal times in order to plan accordingly. 

Which nights will you have more time to cook dinner and which nights might you have to use a pre-cooked frozen meal, meal-delivery service, or a healthy take-out or restaurant option?

One thing I do to simplify my meal planning is to start by picking a different protein for each dinner during the week and then rotating the vegetables and sides to come up with what I’ll make.  

An easy lunch option is to use whatever leftover protein you have from last night’s dinner and throw it over some salad greens so when I plan out my dinners, I often plan to make extra of whatever protein I’m cooking.

Also, a helpful option is to cook extra on the nights you have more time and make use of the leftovers for lunches or even an additional dinner.

I often use CleanFoodCrush and Skinnytaste to find new healthy recipes to cook.  Skinnytaste is especially good because they have a lot of healthier takes on classic dishes that your family might like.

If you already have some favorite family recipes, think about what healthier food swaps you can make in the recipes or what substitutions you might want to plan for yourself.  

I also like to add all my meals for the week into my calorie tracker app ahead of time.  This way, I can easily refer to it each morning and know exactly what I’m going to eat throughout the day.

The net calorie information is already calculated based on what I’ve input so I can easily see if the meals and snacks I’ve planned are within my target calorie range and if I need to make any adjustments.

For example, if I’ve planned to make a pasta dinner one night that is a little higher in calories, I might modify my lunch and snacks that day to leave some extra calories for dinner.  Personally, I look at my net calories for the day as a mathematical juggling act – I can add a little here, subtract a little there, maybe have extra dessert some days, etc.  

But remember, it’s important not to restrict yourself from eating when you’re hungry or eliminate your favorite foods.  

At the end of the day, try your best to eat within your range, keeping in mind that what you eat overall matters most so if you’re a little over on calories one day, it’s not a big deal.  

4.) Eat a balanced diet

When planning out your meals, it’s important to make sure you have a variety of foods in your diet and in a healthy ratio.

Protein – should be 15 to 35% of your daily calories and is a key component in a weight loss diet as it keeps you full for longer and helps boost metabolic function.  

Good sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy like certain cheeses and greek yogurt. 

Carbohydrates – should be about 30-40% of your daily calories, but keep in mind that not all carbs are created equally.

You want to go for complex carbs and whole grains like whole-grain bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes, and fruit.  Try to stay away from white bread, white rice, and too much sugar.

Fruits and vegetables – aim for 3 or more cups per day of non-starchy veggies and 1 ½ to 2 cups of fresh fruit per day.  

Eat the rainbow when it comes to fruits and vegetables.  Think leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, apples, melon, and berries.

White potatoes and corn are higher in starch so limit those a bit and keep in mind that certain fruits like bananas, grapes, and pineapple have more sugar (and calories) than others.  

Healthy fats – are essential in our body and should make up 25-30% of your daily calories.

Be sure to include unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado oil, peanut butter or almond butter, avocados, and hummus (chickpeas are also a good source of protein). 

Dairy – is an important source of calcium and vitamin D so make sure to include a mix of dairy products in your diet like low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt.  

If you are dairy-free or lactose intolerant, some good options would be lactose-free milk and/or fortified soy milk and soy yogurt.

5.) Make a grocery list

Next write out your grocery list, including all the ingredients you’ll need to make the meals you’ve just planned out for the week, as well as healthy options for snacks and of course the pantry staples and foods that the rest of the family will eat during the week.

Sometimes I’ll head to the grocery store with my list, but more often than not, I order my groceries online.  It’s a huge time saver and it also helps me avoid impulse purchases that cause me to spend more money than I need to!

6.) Meal prep

Once you have all your groceries on hand, start your prep! 

I’m not big on preparing the ingredients for all of my meals ahead of time, but what has worked for me is to chop up veggies and sometimes cook some chicken breasts and/or hard-boiled eggs that I can add as a protein to my salads throughout the week.

Some people like to make freezer-friendly meals like soups, casseroles, or slow-cooker meals at the beginning of the week or experiment with batch cooking.  

Batch cooking is simply making big batches of foods or ingredients that you can use as components in future meals or recipes.  It can save you time and money.

7.) Add physical activity

As we discussed earlier, add physical activity to your routine in order to accelerate your weight loss and keep your mind and body in optimal health.

Once you combine added physical activity with a diet plan, you will be well on your way to weight loss success.

The best diet for busy moms is really very simple.  It is the combination of healthy food choices, portion control, and physical activity in a way that works for your lifestyle.

I hope this post has given you some inspiration and motivation to get started on your healthy eating journey.  

What I’ve shared in this post is what has worked best for me on the many, many diets I’ve tried over the years, but please keep in mind that I’m not a nutritionist or dietician. 

Also, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before embarking on any new weight loss plan, especially if you have a large amount of weight to lose or any pre-existing health conditions.

Good luck!  I’d love to hear how it goes…..comment below and share your experience. ♥️

Did you like this post?  Check out some others along these lines:

160 Positive Body Affirmations (for Body Confidence, Acceptance, and Love)

5 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle

How to Start a Simple Wellness Journey

85 Awesome 30-Day Challenges to Improve Your Life

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1 thought on “What Is the Best Diet for Busy Moms?  The answer is simple”

  1. I have never read such a comprehensive account
    on this topic! What makes it so unique is all the personal and practical suggestions from your own life as a busy mom. Thank you Carly for a fabulous resource on weight loss.

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