It’s back to school time! This is the perfect season to prepare some healthy meals and snacks for the kiddos, as well as yourself.
As Benjamin Franklin said, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Planning is the #1 driver for success especially when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle. When we do this consistently, we rapidly see an elevation of the health of our families, including our children. Not to mention, our kids are always watching us, so when we lead by example, we are showing our kids that nourishing our bodies is a form of self care. It is how we look after ourselves and one of the best investments we can make each and every day.
As a mom of 3 kids, I know how challenging it can be to have easy healthy food ready when your schedule is filled up with drop offs, pickups and after school activities! So here are my 3 tips to make healthy back-to-school food easy!
Tip #1: Simplify
We all have these grandiose ideas that when we decide to eat healthy, we need to make everything at home. While this is a great sentiment, it may also not be totally feasible during busy seasons of life. That’s why simplifying can actually help us stay on the healthy eating bandwagon, even when you have a family. When you simplify, you also save time and time is your most precious commodity!
Here are a few examples of time saving simple cooking hacks:
Swap homemade dips, dressings and/or sauces, for a healthy store bought option OR ask your fave healthy restaurant for an extra side of a sauce/dressing/dip that you love so you can take it home.
Invest in packets of individual portions of baby carrots, celery, apple slices, mixed nuts etc. Pair with those individual servings of hummus, low fat ranch dressing or greek yogurt, then place them next to each other in the fridge. You’ve saved time prepping the food and digging through the fridge trying to find them when you’re hungry or making school lunches.
Buy pre-washed and chopped veggies and fruits. This makes it easier to eat them and cook with them, without all the fuss of washing and chopping. Frozen fruits and veggies are great too! Use frozen fruits in smoothies and frozen veggies in everything from crockpot meals to a quick fried rice.
Purchase cooked proteins, such as rotisserie chickens, to save cooking time during the week. Then pair with quick and easy sides like a store bought salad and dressing, or those easy steamed veggie packets.
Tip #2: Make One More
Meal prepping has been a life saver for me! It may surprise you, but you don’t have to make a whole week’s worth of food to reap the benefits. Start by simply meal prepping a couple of days of school lunches. I like to make two days worth of lunches at a time: one lunch goes with the kids to school that day, while the other lunch stays in the fridge till tomorrow.
This method of Making One More is so helpful because it saves you time on the second morning and your kids can easily pack their lunches by themselves too.
Some ideas for meal prep-able school lunches are:
Copycat Healthier Chik-Fil-A Chicken Minis: my sugar free copycat Chik-Fil-A sauce adds so much flavor to these healthier mini sandwiches.
Pizza Roll Ups: You can prep these roll ups ahead of time and opt to bake them the day your kids take them to school, or leave them unbaked for an even easier, yet still delicious, lunch.
Olivia’s Fave Stir Fry: My daughter Olivia loves this stir fry (it tastes like Chinese take out but its healthier!) and you can easily make a huge batch. I portion out servings in containers that are suitable for both the fridge and the microwave. Then on the day the kids take the stir fry to school, I simply warm the container of food in the microwave and place it in an insulated lunch bag. The bag helps to keep the food warm and this meal makes a nice change from a cold lunch. The recipe for this stir fry is below.
Tip #3: Empower Your Kids
When your kids are empowered and confident in the kitchen, they can help you so much with getting meals and snacks ready. They will also learn a hugely valuable life skill and have some great bonding moments with you.
Depending on the ages and skill level of your kids, here are some easy tasks they can help with:
- Washing fruits and vegetables
- Placing snacks into resealable snack bags or containers
- Spreading sauces or condiments
- Measuring ingredients in measuring cups or spoons
- Mixing ingredients in bowls
- Placing snacks/lunches/water bottles in the fridge ready for tomorrow: placing food and the kid-appropriate cutlery and plates at kid height really helps them to feel independent and have ownership over what they can do.
- Helping select lunch ideas/dinner meals for the week
- Putting together a grocery list and helping to grocery shop
- Baking muffins for easy snacks during the week e.g. sweet muffins or savory egg muffins for breakfast
- Simple chopping depending on maturity, skill level and with adult supervision
- Sauteing onions, garlic etc with adult supervision
Begin experimenting with their own recipes and flavor combinations
Kids are always looking for ways to express their individuality and independence, and I find that empowering them in the kitchen is one way to do so. Plus it can create a lifelong love of cooking and teaches them so much about health and wellness.
One final reminder: getting healthier as a family is not about perfection – it is about progress! There will be days when your meal planning works out perfectly, and days when something happens in life it throws a wrench in your healthy eating efforts. Don’t worry! This is not a reason to throw in the towel and give up. Instead, get right back up the next day and keep moving towards your goal. Remember, any step forward, no matter how small, towards having a healthier family, is movement in the right direction. These consistent small steps will add up over time and create sustainable and life-changing progress.
Olivia’s Stir Fry
This is a quick and easy recipe that my daughter Olivia loves having for school lunches. You can also make this for an easy dinner – it is packed with protein and lots of crisp-tender veggies.
Servings: 4 people
1 lb ground meat e.g. beef, turkey etc.
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 cups sliced carrots
For the Stir Fry Sauce:
⅓ cup light soy sauce or coconut aminos
⅓ cup water
3 tbsp stevia or monkfruit sweetener
1 tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Optional Garnishes: sliced green onions, sesame seeds, chopped toasted cashews
- In a large saucepan or wok on medium heat, cook the ground meat till completely cooked through.
- Add the onion and saute for about 3-4 minutes till softened.
- Meanwhile, mix the Stir Fry Sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Add the broccoli florets, carrots, and Stir Fry Sauce, and stir together to combine well.
- Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the veggies are crisp-tender and the sauce is coating all the ingredients.
- If desired, garnish with any of the ingredients listed above, then serve warm with your choice of brown rice, quinoa, noodles or zoodles.