By Shannon Grega
Back to school means back to hectic mornings, afternoons filled with extracurricular activities, and evenings filled with homework. An important key in keeping your child well prepared is by providing nutritious meals every day to help them improve, both in and outside of the classroom. Research has shown that what children eat will make a difference in how they perform in school. Instead of feeling rushed and overwhelmed when packing your child’s meals, follow these tips for healthy packing to help free up those already crazy mornings.
1) Make Time to Prepare
Realizing Monday morning you only have one slice of bread instead of two for your child’s lunch or forgetting you ran out of snacks last week can throw off your morning. Instead, take one night or weekend to prepare a list of meals for the week. Some meals can be made ahead, while shorter meals can be prepped and made that evening. The crock pot can be one of the most helpful kitchen appliances. Set it on low in the morning and have a fresh, hot meal ready to go for dinner.
2) The Freezer Can be Your Best Friend
Busy mornings may make it tough for you or your child to enjoy a well-balanced breakfast. After running around all day, you may not want to spend an hour cooking dinner, this is where freezing meals can be extremely beneficial. After planning the meals, make some ahead during your free time! Prepare breakfast wraps with whole grain tortillas, eggs, and veggies, or cook up oatmeal bars you can heat right in the microwave when you are on the go. Freeze any leftovers to be used later in the week when you just don’t have the time to make a new meal.
3) Include Healthy Fats and Good Carbs
Instead of the snacks filled with trans fats and simple carbs, such as potato chips and sugary fruit snacks, try adding in healthier alternatives filled with nutrients that will keep your kid more alert and awake throughout the day. Swap fruit snacks with real, kid-friendly fruits like grapes or apple slices with peanut butter. Instead of greasy chips, slice up some cucumbers or go for a small serving of whole grain chips if they put up a fight about their chips. Other great options include Greek yogurt, kids protein bars, and string cheese.
4) Set Up a Snack Shelf
Designate a certain shelf in the pantry or anywhere in the kitchen as the snack shelf. Prepare or purchase healthy snacks that you can grab when you are on the go during busy mornings or before an after-school event. When purchasing snacks, be sure to read the ingredients label! Avoid snacks with high amounts of added sugars and choose items with organic ingredients, when available. If not, choose items with a shorter list of ingredients and ones with real ingredients, none of those artificial ones.
5) Include the Kids!
Talk to your kids about why it is important to eat healthy meals. Find out what they enjoy and make it fun! Explain how cooking can bring people together when preparing and enjoying meals each night together at the dinner table. When prepping for the week, don’t forget to get the kids involved! Depending on the age, they can help chop up some fruits and veggies. Have them mix up the salad or help build their sandwich creation. Keeping them included will help them learn multiple skills, in addition to the importance of proper nutrition.