Our blog post comes from one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors, Serena Ball, MS, RD. Serena is a registered dietitian and mother of four in Chicago. She blogs at www.TeaspoonOfSpice.com.
Today is my daughter’s first day of second grade – but it seems we’ve been getting ready for weeks. She’s tried on clothes from last year to see what fits, there’s a pan of homemade lasagna in the freezer, and we attempted to get to bed a little earlier. While your kids may have been hearing school bells for weeks – and some have yet to start school – it’s not Labor Day yet; and in my mind, by that time us moms are supposed to have the school routine down pat. So as you endeavor toward this goal, here are a few tips on planning ahead to fuel your family with nutritious meals and snacks:
Pack lunches the night before – Morning rushes can be too crazy for lunch box assembly. But a little time spent on prepping appetizing kids’ lunches means the difference between healthy foods nourishing their bellies and lunch tossed in the trash. If they pack it, they will eat it. So at the beginning of the week, mom can portion out munchies in zip-top sandwich bags or reusable containers; store in a bin in the refrigerator or pantry. Then throughout the week, have kids pull out the bins to mix and match their lunch box assembly from these options:
- Protein power: Kid-sized Greek Yogurt, nut butters, lean lunch meats, string cheese, hard boiled eggs with egg slicer
- Whole grains: Whole wheat tortilla or pita bread, whole grain crackers, whole wheat bread, reusable containers of whole wheat couscous or brown rice
- Varied veggies: Celery or carrot sticks with mild salsa dip, cucumber slices with hummus dip, shredded carrots to top sandwiches
- Fruit fun: Sliced apples, grapes, canned peaches/pears, trail mix of dried cranberries/cherries/raisins and nuts
Plan at least three dinners per week over the weekend – Used the weekend to plan, shop for and even begin some of the prep (like chopping vegetables) for several healthy dinners per week. When time is tight the other nights – or schedules change – fill in with super-quick dinner options like sandwiches or scrambled eggs.
Your freezer is your friend – If you don’t have big plans over Labor Day, fill your freezer with simple meal solutions that will save time later:
- Brown ground beef/turkey – Just brown, drain the fat, refrigerate until cool and freeze in zip-tip plastic bags for use in chili, soup, tacos, frittatas.
- Chop onions, peppers or celery – These veggies freeze well and sautéing them can be a jump-start to almost any recipe.
- Cook up meals for instant meals – Make and freeze a pot of soup, pasta sauce, lasagna, or one of my favorite grab-and-microwave-and-go breakfasts: The kids will enjoy their “Egg muffins”, i.e. muffin frittatas.