Between adapting to new routines and schedules, replacing worn-out or misfitting clothes, and picking up school supplies, September can be a busy month. It’s not too hard to add healthy meals to the back to school list, though, especially if you follow a few simple guidelines and take advantage of these tips.
1) Meal Planning
Stave off the temptation for convenience food (which is usually higher in unhealthy saturated fats and sugars) with a homemade one-two punch. One night’s leftovers can be the start of the next night’s meal. Here are some basic ideas to get started with:
- Sunday night roast chicken dinner becomes tortilla soup or grilled chicken sandwiches.
- Roasted vegetables are a delicious side dish for baked tofu, and the leftovers taste great in black bean tacos
- A large pot of rice starts off your stir fry one night and adds fibre to your salad bowl the next.
Planning your meals a few days in advance also helps you make a shopping list. To get the best deals, don’t forget to check our member specials.
2) Work together
Engage your kids in planning and preparing food of all kinds, but especially lunches and snacks. The more involved kids are in the decision-making, the more likely they are to find their food satisfying. Once they are old enough, kids can make their own lunches in the evening before bed from a supply of snacks and ingredients you set out. This saves you time and stress in the morning, and builds healthy habits for life. Read more tips from Canada’s Food Guide.
3) Choose foods wisely
Aim to offer a mix of healthy protein, fats, and carbs. Healthy fats support brain function, and good proteins can support activity and attention throughout the day. Carbs should come in fibre-rich combinations like whole grains, carrot sticks and apple wedges. Use the Canada Food Guide as a reference!
4) Pack a water bottle!
Juice boxes are tasty and tempting, but are often high in sugar. To cut waste, ensure good-quality water, and maintain good hydration, send kids to school with refreshing tap water. Kids can drink when they’re thirsty without heading to the drinking fountain or relying on sugary drinks. A fun or cool water bottle will also help kids feel excited to hydrate.
5) Keep lunches and snacks simple
For lots of kids, the goal is to finish eating so they can go play. Cut sandwiches, veggies, and cheese into bite-sized pieces so they are quick and easy to eat. That said…
6) Make food interesting and enjoyable.
Cultivate your kids’ interest in healthy food by involving them in planning and cooking. At lunchtime, a more complicated lunch can sometimes be a source of pride and interest. Some kids will enjoy assembling an elaborate meal once in a while, which can support their interest in cooking and make great use of…
7) Leftovers for Lunch!
There’s no need to keep leftovers for yourself (unless you’re following suggestion #1). Some kids will devour cold chicken drumsticks, tofu sticks, and of course, cold pizza. For an easy, no-mess ice pack, soak a washcloth in water, pop into a plastic bag, and freeze overnight. The washcloth will help prevent the melted ice from making a mess in the lunch bag.
Overall, our advice is to follow the Canada Food Guide when it comes to making nutrition decisions. That means involving your whole family in meal planning, eating together as much as possible, choosing a nutritious mix of whole and healthy foods, and creating healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Photo: Co-op Members Francis and Diego Voykin. Photo by Sam Alvarado.