Who can believe another school year is approaching. It seems like it was yesterday prepping for summer and thinking to ourselves – more time on our hands, no more driving here and there, and no more packing lunches (well at least I was!). As summer comes to a close (a moment of sadness), it is time to get ready for the up and coming school year. Schedules are being organized, school is about to begin, and timeliness becomes part of everyday life again.
Now some things can be a bit out of our control when it comes to planning (school, work, schedules, family, etc.) but there are plenty of things that we can be in charge of when it comes to making our lives easier. Thinking ahead when it comes to mealtimes and food can make your world a simpler and healthier place to be. Whether it’s grocery shopping, getting breakfast ready, packing a lunch (school or work or play), planning meals, or having the house ready (for when the kids come home) – if you plan ahead, you can help keep things easy and nutritious for every age.
Lesson #1: Grocery Shopping can set you up for a really easy week of menu planning and getting everyone ready for school, work or extracurricular events. Whether you go weekly on Sunday night or Thursday is your thing; either day works if you plan out what you want for the week and what you need (verses what you want when you get there…happens to us all). Make a list of the items you need for the week (this includes lunch items) and what meals you plan to make. This helps you stay on track when it comes to only getting what you need and helps you limit impulse buying (leading to food items that aren’t really a necessity but extras). By sticking to your food plan for the week, it can help you save money (less excess stuff) and limit food waste. Don’t forget, be sure to check your refrigerator and pantry before you shop so you know what you need and don’t need to pick up.
Lesson #2: Breakfast is a must. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old or if you have 10 minutes or an hour to eat, eating first thing in the morning is important. You body needs energy and after a good night’s sleep, you need to fuel your system for the day. It is much harder to think and be on your toes if you are running on empty! Breakfast doesn’t have to be a full-course meal – eggs (prefer egg whites of course), low fat dairy option, whole wheat toast and a side of fruit (although that would be nice); it can be as simple as a yogurt and piece of fruit or whole wheat English muffin with some peanut butter. It’s all about eating something and including whole foods that provide a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Less can be more when it comes to breakfast; eating a little something even if time doesn’t permit is a whole lot better than skipping the meal entirely.
Lesson #3: Pack those lunches. It is a lot easier to know what your children or you are going to eat that day if the food is packed and ready to go. Buying school lunch or going out to eat is an option and can be a healthy one depending on the food items we pick; but it can be easier in regards to portions and choices if we pack them ourselves. Packing up for lunch can be a task, but if you prep it the night before (makes the mornings a heck of a lot easier when it comes to time!) and it is ready to go in the morning – it is as simple as grab-n-go. This way too you know what is on the menu that day and can feel good about it. Keep it simple, yogurts, fruit, veggie slices, wraps, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, or left-over’s from the night before, water bottles…..anything you can fit in a bag or cooler works. Get your kids or spouse to help prepare for the next day – this is my trick to avoid hearing ‘you didn’t pack me what I wanted’!
Lesson #4: Planning Your Meals. This one is pretty simple but to some of us seems a bit challenging. It sounds easy to simply plan what you want to eat and stick to it. Sure, if your schedule never changes! With school activities, homework, etc. the best laid plans can get spoiled. When you head to the grocery store as mentioned above, get the items you plan to prepare meals with for the week and try to think when the best time to enjoy that meal or selection is. If taco night is easier (easy meal to make) on a Thursday, then do it…..if you have a bit more time to cook Monday night then choose a meal that you can take your time preparing. Another tip is if you can cook a little extra in advance (sauce or extra chicken), that will save a lot of time during the week. You can always cook and freeze for the following weeks ahead too. It’s a really easy way to save time.
Lesson #5: Get your House Nutrition Ready. This one I think is one of the most important ways to make sure you and your families are eating well especially when it comes to getting back on schedule. Whether you have a elementary school child or one in high school, there are going to be times when they simply help themselves to the refrigerator and grab something to eat (in my house it seems all the time!). People often ask what do my kids eat at home or what do I feed them? Best answer – I keep foods in the house that I want them to eat – fruit and veggies (cut up I find easier for kids), yogurts, cheese, nuts, cereal with milk they love as a snack, hummus, cottage cheese, waffles, pancakes, etc. This way I know when they go for something, I can feel good about it and know they are eating something nutritious. The less you keep in the house (snack items or treats) the less you eat. If they aren’t there…..you can’t be tempted.
When school is in session – keep these lessons in mind and it can make going back to school a breeze.