Brooke Griffin is one inspiring mama.
She grew up in a tiny Kentucky town, where her tight-knit family taught her the value of gathering around the dinner table for supper and the importance of sharing a tasty meal.
Her fitness journey took her from NFL cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals to Fitness Universe Champion. But her dedication to healthy living became even stronger in 2011, when she lost her marriage, her job and ultimately who she was.
Brooke was heartbroken and had 70 pounds of baby weight she wanted to shed. She had a newborn to care for and puzzle pieces to put back together. She needed a plan.
Brooke wanted to lose the weight while connecting with other moms who were looking to do the same, but couldn't find what she was looking for online. So she created it. That's how her healthy living website Skinny Mom was born in 2011. Brooke sold Skinny Mom in 2016 and now publishes blogs, recipes and more on her website.
With her book Skinny Suppers: 125 Lightened-Up, Healthier Meals for Your Family, Brooke shares 125 amazing, healthy recipes for our families like Southern shrimp and grits and Caribbean jerk chicken with mango salsa (YUM!)
Skinny Suppers is not just a regular cookbook—it's an everyday tool to use in your kitchen. It gives you meal-planning tips, pantry staple ideas, useful kitchen utensil recommendations and family dinnertime conversation starters.
We got to chat with Brooke about how you can get your toddler to try new foods, tips for taking your little ones to the grocery store with you (without going crazy!) and how to lose the baby weight.
Motherly: How do you overcome that hurdle of feeling like losing the baby weight is hopeless and you're never going to be able to do it? What advice do you have for moms who feel this way?
Brooke Griffin: I think actually working up the courage and strength to accept that you've got work to do and commit to making the necessary changes to your lifestyle is probably the most difficult part.
You don't gain a large amount of weight like that overnight, so being able to step back and see what's happened over time and say, “Okay, I have to take control of what's happening to my body," is a scary but huge step.
Whether your baby is 6 months or 3 years old, you just have to make a promise to yourself that you're ready to work, and back up that promise!
Start small by cooking at least one healthy meal a week for your family.
Set aside five to 10 minutes a day to walk, jog or jump rope. These small changes start becoming part of your new healthy habits, and then one healthy meal a week becomes two, a five-minute walk becomes a 15-minute jog and so on. It's important to not look at the end goal, and know that every step along the healthy journey is a victory!
In today's busy world, we're all moving in 100 different directions. Do you think sitting down at the table for dinner together as a family is doable? Beneficial?
Oh, I wholeheartedly believe that both of these are true.
Families today are insanely busy, but sitting down for supper—even a few nights a week—is doable with some planning. My key to making this happen is what I call “Power Planning Sunday." Every Sunday afternoon I set aside some time to plan my family's meals for the week, do my grocery shopping and prep as much as I can.
This makes supper so much easier every night. I'd also say a key for busy families would be utilizing your slow cooker so your meals cook for you; all you have to do is sit down and eat!
Suppertime is so beneficial because it allows you to reconnect and learn new things about the members of your family. My cookbook has “Suppertime Chat" ideas to help get your family talking during meals! I'd also say that sitting down for nutritious meals together helps your children develop a healthier relationship with food. They know what fuel is best for their bodies when you openly discuss what you're eating together.
What advice do you have for busy mamas who need to go to the grocery store with little ones? It can be a daunting task!
As a single mama, I get that! When my son was a toddler, I'd bring a snack and a toy or two to keep him occupied while I shopped. Now that he's a little older, he loves to grab one of the mini carts or baskets and help out! I make a small list of some of the foods he enjoys so that he can do some of his own shopping throughout the store (with me by his side, of course!). We love spending this time together and it makes shopping less of a chore and he doesn't get bored or cranky.
No matter your children's ages, never go to the grocery without a list! One of my favorite sayings is, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and that couldn't be more true than when you're heading to the store with kids... especially when everyone is hungry.
You mentioned meal planning. How important is meal planning for busy families?
Meal planning is the ONLY way you'll be able to cook healthy meals every night and keep your sanity. This is something I feel strongly about, so Skinny Suppers includes tips for meal planning and has a 30-day calendar to help you get started. Again, start small and have a goal to cook your family one healthy meal a week. Then work up to two and then three. Cook meals and freeze them ahead of time on days you have more time than others. Put those leftovers to work into healthy lunches, or serve them a touch differently for a new twist on the next night's dinner.
You're never going to have more time, so just get smarter with the time you do have.
Any advice on how to get your toddler to try new foods?
There are a couple of ways I did this. First, I sneak it in! If you plop a serving of greens on your kid's plate, they probably won't touch it; it's just too boring for them! Incorporate a vegetable into a meal you know your little one enjoys so that green becomes less intimidating to them. For example, my little guy loves mac 'n' cheese, so I serve him my Creamy Mac and Alfredo recipe so he enjoys a meal he likes and devours a serving of spinach!
Also, try getting your toddler involved in the cooking process. You might think they're a little too young to have responsibilities in the kitchen, but think about it: If they can work an iPad, they can sprinkle some cheese!
If you let your little one help out in the kitchen, they'll feel connected to that dish and will be more willing to give it a try.
How do you build up a well-stocked pantry + spice rack? What are your staples?
I am all about cooking from pantry staples, which you will quickly notice in Skinny Suppers. I never use hard-to-pronounce ingredients, or items you have to find in a specialty store. So, start building your well-stocked pantry and spice rack little by little by adding a few items every time you hit the grocery store. I always have produce on hand to bulk up a meal and for healthy snack options: onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, carrots, apples, grapefruit. A few of my pantry staples are brown rice, bread crumbs, quinoa, canned vegetables, canned beans, low-sodium broth and extra virgin olive oil.
I included a full section of how to include build your pantry aisle by aisle in Skinny Suppers, which is a fantastic resource if you're just getting started.
You took a lot of classic recipes + made them healthier. How did you do that? What are some substitutes you used that might be able to apply to a variety of recipes?
You're able to make most classic dishes healthier by using what I like to call “skinny swaps." These swaps could be as simple as rolling your chicken in corn flakes and Panko before baking it rather than frying it! I also swap out heavy cream with nonfat milk and use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo.
There are so many small swaps or actions you can take in the kitchen that drastically cut calories, fat and carbs.
I wanted to make sure that Skinny Suppers wasn't just a book of recipes; I wanted it to be a useful tool that women could use and learn from. These skinny swaps are one of the easiest, most important ways you can serve up healthier meals to your family and once you learn what those are, you'll be able to apply these swaps to nearly all your favorite recipes!
How can you incorporate little ones into the cooking process?
It's so true—especially for busy families—that time spent in the kitchen cooking can be the best quality time you get with your kids all day. My son is now 5 years old and he's definitely gotten more interested in cooking with me. One of the simplest ways to get kids involved is to let them help choose the menu! I always ask Easton what he'd like to have for dinner, and then when he says pizza and chicken nuggets, I find ways to lighten up those foods. He always helps me with at least one action step in the recipe.
You've just got to remember that all kids are curious. They want to help you in the kitchen, so let them!
Even if you're in a rush or don't think you have the patience to cook with your little ones, just give it a try and they'll quickly become your trusty little sous chefs.