One of the challenges of modern life is knowing how to mix our busy lifestyles with healthy eating — especially once school starts. We try to make sure our children have a healthy meal before they rush out the door to get to school on time, but more often than not, we’re lucky to get any breakfast into our kids, let alone make sure it’s healthy.
And of course, on the way out the door they must also have a healthy lunch in their hands. The task of feeding our back-to-schoolers healthy, nutritious meals can be overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be.
FAST + HEALTHY
The good news is healthy foods come in fast versions, too. You don’t need to spend 30 minutes preparing meals for them to be healthy. As long as you follow a few simple guidelines — like the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate standards — to make sure a fruit or vegetable, a grain (preferably whole grain) and a protein are in each meal, you can ensure your children will have a balanced, healthy diet. There are so many easy options to fill each category — and some might even surprise you.
HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR EVERY MEAL
Wanting to give your children healthy options and knowing what those options are aren’t always one and the same. Whether you’re simply looking for inspiration or unsure of what a “healthy” day of meals looks like, the following options are sure to keep your children healthy and happy.
Breakfast: A cold cereal that’s low in sugar (like Cheerios, Kix or Frosted Mini-Wheats) paired with a banana and yogurt (you can even use a Go-GURT) is a healthy, quick option for children of all ages.
Lunch: Pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with carrot sticks. Whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter and low-sugar jelly would make this lunch even healthier, but stick with what your child will eat. If that’s not enough food for your child, send two sandwiches and add a serving of fruit.
Dinner: Tacos provide a grain, vegetables and protein for a complete meal that’s healthy and your kids will love. Use healthier ingredients like corn or whole wheat tortillas with extra lean ground beef. Mix in black beans or refried beans and corn with the ground beef for extra protein and fiber. If your child is so inclined, avocado, salsa, tomatoes and lettuce add substance and vegetables.
Snacks: Whole grain crackers like Triscuits and Wheat Thins are great snack options, as are partial whole grain crackers such as wheat Gold Fish. Scooby Snacks, string cheese, yogurt, milk, fresh fruit and veggies, 100 percent fruit leathers and un-sugared dried fruit can be used for snacks to keep your little ones satisfied throughout the day.
Treats: Limit treats like cookies and candy to one serving per day — according to the package instructions — and combine it with a daytime meal.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Last but not least, get your kids involved. Take them grocery shopping with you or let them pick healthy options from each food group to incorporate into their breakfast or lunch. Involving your children in the process will give them a sense of ownership.
Before you know it, you’ll go from lunch-time zero to lunch-time hero — all the while providing balanced, healthy meals throughout the school year.