Thursday, July 21, 2016

Back to School!

It is the time of the year when summer is wrapping up, everyone is getting back from vacations, and school supplies are on sale at every store. August and September are those months that both parents and children start to adjust back to the new school year. This means waking up earlier and schedules are busier with school time activities. It is important that families have a plan on how to manage school time meals because those meals are critical to those growing children. The following tips are ways to prepare ahead and think about meals for the school week.

-          Plan Ahead: No one wants come home from a long day at work on a Monday and have to think about what’s for dinner. The weekends are a great time, or even any down time, to plan and think about options for meals. When meal planning, it is best to try to give oneself a few options throughout the week, but try not to make it too overwhelming. It is also nice to have a few quick, ready prepared option such as crock pot recipes, deli meals, or frozen options as backups.  Thinking about what is in season is another a great way to get some ideas for meals. For example, as summer time ends, ideas that might involve grilling, cold salads, and fruit dishes may be shifting towards more fall and winter options such as casseroles, soups, stews and such.  Once the ideas and menus are planned for the week, it is time efficient to do as much meal prep in advance. Make and portion items out such as fruit, crackers, cheeses, vegetables and dip.  Sandwiches can always be premade even a few days in advance, but one may just hold the condiments till the day of. Freeze items like nut butter sandwiches, smoothies, or soups into portioned containers so that the night before or the morning of, one can take out and have ready to go. Let the kids get involved with meal planning and meal prep! As long as it is age appropriate and safe, being part of this process helps teach the kids important skills and behaviors with food.         

-          Breakfast: Do not skip! Children have been asleep all night and now have a busy day ahead of them. They need energy; however, as many parents know, getting kids up, moving and to school on time can be a challenge. Try to set food items out that could be ready to go such as cereals and certain fruits. The next morning all one has to do is add milk and you know they have a complete meal. If need be, have some grab and go options available like nut butter sandwiches, fruit, smoothies, and other similar items so that in worst case scenarios, the kids are not leaving the house on an empty stomach. 

-          Lunches: Pack and plan ahead. Strive for variety where one can! Like breakfast, preparing lunch ahead time can save time. Anything that one can do in advance will help. Many school age children often report they eat the same foods for lunch throughout the school year. Whether it is adding a new spread like avocado to a turkey sandwich, adding fruit to a nut butter sandwich, or trying a new vegetable dip, try new ideas slowly. 

-          Afternoon snacks:   Do not forget that afternoon fueling! It has usually been several hours since most children have eaten by the time they get home. Dinner can also be several hours away before the whole family is ready to eat. It is best for the parents to have some options for afternoon snacks available to help guide healthy eating. Combinations like cheese and crackers, fruit and nuts/nut butters, vegetables and dip like hummus, fruit and yogurt. It is also important to be mindful if there are afternoon activities like clubs or sports in which they may need an afternoon snack before or after. 

-          Family dinners:  So important!  Family dinners are so important for many reasons.  Research has shown how important it is for family bonding, communication and developmental skills.  Meals can be as elaborate as needed or as simple as a few items, but it is important to have balanced meals available.  Gathering the family for dinners can be hard, but if a family can strive for at least a few nights during the week, they can add more along the way.         

Raising Healthy Eaters from Preschool to High School.