By Emily Schwartz
It’s that time again: back to school time! Although exciting, the new school year often means more activities and less time to focus on meal planning and nutrition. Taking even just a moment to plan ahead can help keep your family healthy while maximizing your time and allowing you to do more of the things you love. Here are quick and easy tips to set you and your family up for success, anytime of the day!
Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day as it helps give us the energy and nutrients necessary to focus and function properly throughout the day. Kids that enjoy healthy, balanced breakfasts are also set to perform better in school and maintain a healthier weight. Putting together a nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to take much effort. Just pair a source of protein with a source of fiber—two hunger-fighting nutrients—to help carry you and your family to your next meal or snack. For example, try having a Greek yogurt cup with berries or whole grain toast with nut butter and banana slices.
Keep the “health train” going throughout the day with a delicious and nutritious packed lunch. Take a little time on the weekend to prepare and portion foods, like fresh cut veggies, hard-boiled eggs, or popcorn, to help streamline the packing process on more busy weekdays. Also, keep nutrient-rich, ready-to-pack foods like granola bars, hummus, or guacamole cups and whole fruit, like apples, bananas, or oranges, on hand to easily round out packed meals. Try one of these packed lunch favorites or create your own:
● Nut Butter and “Jelly” Sandwich (try mashed fresh fruit like bananas or berries in place of jelly), baby carrots, popcorn, and milk
● Hummus, whole grain pita bread, bell pepper slices, grapes, and milk
● Cheese slices, whole grain crackers, snap peas, and strawberries
Although breakfast and lunch are important, supper is the meal most likely to be enjoyed as a family. And, family meals are associated with their own positive benefits. In fact, kids who partake in more family meals each week tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally, perform better in school, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors as they get older. To help enjoy more meals as a family, try planning meals ahead of time, making a list of go-to meals, and enlisting your entire family to help in the meal preparation process.
For even more ideas, we at Festival Foods will be celebrating National Family Meals Month™ the entire month of September. Started in 2015 by the Food Marketing Institute, National Family Meals Month™ is a national campaign aimed at promoting the commitment of enjoying more meals each week as a family. Throughout September, we will be sharing family meal ideas on our blog at FestFoods.com/blog, sampling our Dine at Home Deli meal options in our stores and sending you home with a Festival Foods oven mitt. We invite you to join us for #FestivalFamilyMeals and to commit to having one more family meal each week this fall.
Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian.