Summer may have been the season for outdoor grilling and popsicles, but now that school is back, it’s time to refocus your family meal strategy. Use these food tips and recipe ideas from Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, BetterForYou.com’s mom blogger, to keep your kids nourished while saving yourself time, money, and energy! BetterForYou.com published by Linkwell Health.
1. Go portable: When everyone is rushing out the door, you need a meal on the go. Try whole wheat English muffins with peanut butter and sliced bananas, and milk in a to-go cup. Cook hard-boiled eggs and peel them the night before, then serve with whole grain rolls and fruit. Or whip up a smoothie with Greek yogurt, milk, and fruit.
2. Jazz up oatmeal: Oatmeal, which is low in fat and high in heart-healthy fiber, is a nutritious, affordable breakfast staple. Make it more appealing by adding a spoonful of natural peanut butter and a sprinkle of chocolate chips, a bit of almond butter with a dollop of jam, or a tablespoon each of nuts and fruit.
3. Choose a better cereal: There’s nothing wrong with a bowl of cereal with milk—you just need a good cereal. When choosing cereal, look for 8 grams of sugar or less per serving. You can also buy unsweetened cereal, like plain O’s or shredded wheat, and add just a touch of sweeteners at home.
Pack smart for lunch
4. Don’t over stuff: Pack small portions of main items, and include fruits and veggies as sides. You’ll cut down on wasted food and eat healthier.
5. Make juice a treat: Juice is healthier than soda, but it often still has lots of sugar and can put a dent in your wallet. Instead of packing juice every day, make it a treat. Pack water to three times a week, and 100% juice or milk the other days.
6. Roll it up: Use a tortilla as your base, add on whatever your child likes—lean deli meat and cheese, or apple slices and peanut butter—and roll it up. Cut in half if you need to.
7. Take some shortcuts: It’s okay to buy packaged mac and cheese—just look for whole wheat pasta and no artificial flavors. Add broccoli, diced tomatoes, or sweet peas for extra fiber and nutrients. Only use half or three-quarters of the cheese powder to reduce the sodium content.
8. Pick frozen: Shrimp and fish are low-calorie sources of lean protein and brain-healthy fats. Save money by choosing frozen shrimp and frozen fish that’s farm-raised, or water-packed salmon and tuna. Use on salads, sandwiches, pastas, and more!
9. Scope fast food menus: Sometimes, it’s just not possible to cook a homemade meal. Skip the guilt about going through the drive-through by looking up fast food menus online so you can pre-select healthier options. In general, choose grilled foods instead of fried, small fries instead of large, and water instead of soda.
Serve healthier snacks
10. Satisfy a sweet tooth: Kids and adults can agree that living in a world without cookies is no fun. For better options, scan the ingredient list: If you see “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oils,” put it back. It means they may have hidden trans fats.
11. Keep chips basic: There are so many chips that claim to be healthy by putting “multigrain” or “all natural” on the package. The truth is plain tortilla chips made with just corn, oil, and salt are your healthiest bets for when you need some crunch. Serve with a little salsa for extra flavor.
12. Feed your body: A banana, some yogurt, or a handful of nuts and natural dried fruit will energize you for your workout. After the gym, a combo of protein and carbs will help repair muscles. Try an apple with peanut butter or some hummus with whole grain crackers.