With summer coming to an end, this can only mean one thing for parents: back to school madness! Between early mornings and shuttling kids to soccer practice and music lessons after school, making time to prepare nutritious and delicious meals for your children may seem nearly impossible, not to mention trying to adhere to the school’s growing list of prohibited foods for allergy alerts.
Thankfully, a little process called meal prepping can make a huge difference! Meal prepping is the act of preparing your menu and meal ahead of time, and it’s a tried and true tool for calming back to school chaos by making mealtimes easier. Check out these simple and helpful tips on meal prepping for your child’s school lunches and family dinners!
- Make a meal plan: Enlist the help of your kids to plan and decide what meals and snacks they’ll be having for the week. Planning your meals saves time, money, and energy – no more scrambling at dinnertime to try to come up with a creative and nutritious meal the kids will enjoy!
- Follow the Eat Well Plate method: This method provides a simple way of making sure the meal you are preparing is well balanced and nutritious for you and your family. Try dividing your plate as follows:
- ½ plate filled with vegetables and fruit: The more variety, the better! Try to include some dark green and orange vegetables which are packed with carotenoids, which have cancer-preventing potential1. What if the kids are picky? Sneak some vegetables into smoothies or sauces so they remain hidden, but will still offer beneficial vitamins and minerals.
- ¼ plate grain products: Enjoy a variety of whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, barley, and whole grain pasta.
- ¼ plate meat and alternatives: Try to include a variety of meat alternatives such as beans and legumes that are high in protein and fiber which will help you stay full. When selecting meats, choose leaner cuts such as chicken and lean ground turkey.
- Get the kids involved: Not only is this fun bonding time, but it can also help teach your children basic nutrition and cooking skills. Chances are your kids will also want to eat what they’ve had a hand in preparing.
Talan and Aubree joined me in the kitchen for some meal prep fun!
- Make your fridge the lunch box zone: Pre-portion and place the meals and snacks in easy containers or bags so that when your child reaches into the fridge to prepare their lunch (or you do), it’s as simple as grab and go! One strategy that I have found to be quite helpful is cutting up all my vegetables in advance. When the veggie sticks are readily available in the fridge, the whole family is more likely to reach for them. Try it out with your family!
- Reuse and Recycle: Make meal prep simpler by reusing and recycling your leftovers. Oven-baked chicken one night could turn into delicious fajitas the next by simply sautéing the chicken with fresh peppers and onions and serving it with salsa and any other toppings you choose!
Aubree loved her fish tacos; and the best part? She made them all on her own!
We hope that these strategies can help ease your family’s back-to-school schedule!
Check out some of our recipe ideas, one for each day of the week!
- Taco Tuesday – Offer protein choices such as chicken, fish, beans, tofu or cheese and an assortment of veggies such as purple cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, onion, cilantro and so much more! Encourage your children to make their own tacos and choose their favourite toppings.
Wacky Wednesday: Go Bananas! – How about some breakfast for dinner!? These Banana Oat Pancakes are super simple to make and will have the whole family satisfied! Better yet, top it off with some Dipped Bananas for dessert. Talan and Aubree (and I) had so much fun making this cool treat – a great weekend activity!
“More peanut butter drizzle, please!”
Our finished products – Yum!
- Friday Night Za – get creative with the topping options and get some input from your kids when creating the grocery list. Be sure to invite them on an excursion to the grocery store to help you search out the ingredients for dinner!
For more individualized strategies for all your meal prepping needs, check out our one-on-one nutrition coaching consultations for you and your family!
Written in collaboration with Samantha Nesrallah, RD, MPH(c)