As the school year starts it is often a challenge to fall back into a good routine. For many families it can be a struggle to establish consistent bedtimes, carving out time to do homework, and fitting in a nutritious dinner before jetting off to extra-curricular activities. Below are 5 ways for your family to fall into good nutrition during the school year:
- Planning ahead is the best way to start. Devote time each week to go through your calendar and look at the events scheduled and how they may affect the time you have to prepare meals for your family. Then take time to plan out a menu for the week. Keep in mind the foods you already have on hand so you may use them in your upcoming menu plans. Keeping basic foods on hand simplifies planning and shopping.
- Prepare the night before. For example, if Tuesdays are game nights and you only have 60 minutes between picking up your kids and getting them to a game, plan to have a meal ready that is easy to grab from home and go. Realize that sometimes eating a meal in the car is the only way you can make it there on time. At least you are all in one place at one time and this too can count toward family time. In instances like this I will often pre-make sandwiches or wraps the night before and include such items as: easy to transport fruit, vegetables, drinks, and snacks. Try making wraps that include a variety of food groups, such as these wrap recipes.
- Make ahead and freeze meals. Take time on the weekend to prepare some meals for the week. Some of my favorite meals to pre-make and freeze are lasagna, enchiladas, and soups. Click here to learn the “how-to's” of freezing meals.
- Simplify meals. Meals don’t have to be fancy to be healthy. In fact my children seem to turn their noses up at the meals I spend more time making. They prefer simple meals that don’t contain a lot of mixed ingredients. For example, last night was one of those grab and go nights so I put together a mix and match meal: boiled eggs (that I had pre-made), cheese sticks, watermelon, carrot sticks, and whole-grain crackers. It was simple, it was fast, and it included each of the 5 food groups. Find more mix and match meal planning strategies at food.unl.edu.
- Include your children in meal and snack planning. Ask children to help brainstorm ideas for meals and snacks to make during the week. You might be surprised what they want on the list and what they want removed from the list. When you are at the grocery store ask younger children to help put food in the cart. For older children have them help pick out the fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and whole grain foods you buy. These roles, big or small, will positively impact how likely they are to try nutritious foods. For more great recipes ideas check Nebraska Extension Recipe Central.
This newsletter has been peer-reviewed.