It’s hard to believe but summer is almost over and school will be starting soon. That means it’s time to regroup eating habits and meal planning away from more carefree summer schedules and into a healthy, nutritious routine for kids and the whole family. With school and after-school schedules sure to be packed, it’s more important than ever to plan meals and snacks ahead to make sure healthy options are available and everyone gets a decent breakfast, lunch, or snack in their belly.
Don’t skip it and don’t let your kids skip it! Studies show that kids who skip breakfast are tardy and absent from school more often than children who eat breakfast on a regular basis. Kids’ growing bodies and developing brains rely heavily on the regular intake of food and when kids skip breakfast, they can end up going for many hours without food, and this period of semistarvation can create a lot of physical, intellectual, and behavioral problems for them. It’s quick and easy to cook eggs and toast in the morning. Oatmeal, especially if you soak it overnight, cooks up in minutes, and topped with a little maple syrup, nuts, and fresh fruit, is a great way to start the day. Processed cereals are not the best choice. Breakfast cereals, even organic brands, are highly processed and often contain lots of sugar. Why not cook whole grains instead (cook ahead and heat leftovers). Yogurt with fruit and nuts appeals to many kids. Have hard boiled eggs already cooked up and in the fridge for days when you are really in a rush. These are just a few ideas. Ask your kids what they like.
More and more schools are improving their typical salt, sugar, and fat-laden offerings with fresher alternatives using local ingredients. But if you want to make sure your kids are eating right at school, take the time to plan and pack their lunches. Ask them what five things they would like to see in their lunch box. If they help plan their lunch, they will be less likely to toss or trade it at lunch time. They could even make their own lunch if they are old enough. Pack a nice variety of items, like a piece of fruit or cut up fruit, cut up dipping veggies and a tasty dip, something crunchy/salty like nuts or spelt pretzels, and something sweet like yogurt or a homemade oatmeal cookie (or store bought organic). Here is a link to some ideas for great lunchbox sandwiches.
Stock a drawer full of snacks at kid level. Fill it with granola bars, fruit leather, single serving applesauce, crackers packed into individual serving containers, nuts, seaweed snacks, pretzels, dried fruit, or anything else that’s healthy, and convenient, and doesn’t need refrigeration. Make it easy for kids to grab something healthy. Have cheese or veggies already cut up in the fridge. Avoid buying junkier snacks like potato chips, candy, donuts, etc. so no one will even be tempted in the first place. Here is a link to some great snack recipes.