The start of school can also be the start of stress with hectic schedules to keep track of. Putting a healthy meal in the kids’ bellies is just another thing to add to the growing list of things to do. Jenna Smith, University of Illinois Extension registered dietitian and nutrition and wellness educator for Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties shares a few tips to help you manage the load and make back to school time a breeze.
- Eat school food.Encourage your child to eat school food, which is nutritious, budget-friendly and requires little work on your part.
- Pack a lunch the night before. However, on a day you decide to let your child pack a lunch, put it together the night before. Mornings can be chaotic. The time you save to pack a lunch can be used to prepare a healthy breakfast. Use a soft-sided lunch bag with two ice packs to keep foods cold and safe until lunchtime.
- Don’t neglect breakfast. A breakfast doesn’t have to be pancakes or biscuits and gravy. Cereal (with less than 10 grams of sugar/serving), low-fat milk and a piece of fruit is still a healthy option, or fix overnight oats the night before to free up even more time in the mornings.
- Create a “Snack Store” with open and close hours. Designate a plastic container or pantry shelf as a “snack store” and keep it stocked full of healthy snacks, such as dried fruit, nuts and fruit cups. Hang a sign that indicates the “store” is closed one to two hours before and after mealtimes.
- Use the appliances around you. On the days that you know, you won’t have much time or energy to cook a healthy dinner, use the microwave to cook a sweet potato and stuff it with tuna salad or barbecue pork or use the slow cooker to have chicken tacos or chili waiting for your arrival home.
Smith concludes, “Start the school year off right with a plan that includes simple but healthy meals. You, the kids, and teachers will thank you.”
Chocolate Banana Overnight Oats
½ cup rolled (not instant) oats
½ Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ Tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter
½ banana, sliced
1 teaspoon honey
½ cup nonfat milk
Stir all ingredients in a pint-size mason jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, stir and add a little more milk, if desired.
Yield: 1 serving
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 380 calories, 13 grams fat, 120 milligrams sodium, 59 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 15 grams protein