Back-to-school is a busy season. After months of casually crafting meals whenever the kids were hungry, they’ll once again need a balanced breakfast before school, lunch to take to school and dinner when they get home. Between work, bringing the kids to extracurricular activities and running errands, it can be difficult to make healthy meals three times a day.
We understand how important it is to instill healthy habits in kids at a young age, so we offer 3 tips to prepare nutritious meals during the school year.
What Is a Balanced Diet?
We’re all familiar with the food pyramid; our suggested daily intake of calories based on different food groups. From the top down, the pyramid graphic is broken into:
- Foods high fat, sugar and salt
- Meat, fish, eggs and nuts
- Milk, cheese and yogurt
- Fruits and vegetables
- Bread, rice, potatoes and pasta
Based on a 2,000-calorie day, how much of each food type should you consume to lead a healthy lifestyle? According to the American Heart Association:
- Grains: 6-8 servings of bread, cereal, rice or pasta
- Fruits and Vegetables: 4-5 servings of leafy vegetables and fresh fruit
- Meats, Poultry and Seafood: Less than 6 ounces
- Nuts, Seeds and Legumes: 4-5 servings
- Dairy: 2-3 servings of fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese
- Fats and Oils: 2-3 servings of vegetable oil, margarine and other condiments
- Sweets and Added Sugars: Less than one serving
Tips for Healthy Breakfast
To save time, prepare breakfast favorites in bulk. Rather than sending your child off to the school bus with a frosted donut, you can make your own healthy breakfast bars with fruit and protein. Simple changes like almond meal instead of flour or applesauce instead of white sugar hardly make a difference in taste. Or, try overnight oats topped with fresh fruit.
Tips for Healthy Lunch
Although it may be tempting to hand your child $5 for school lunch, prevent them from piling pizza on their tray by packing healthy lunches during the week. Try more nutritious sandwich alternatives, like peanut butter and bananas on whole-wheat bread, instead of high-sugar jelly or marshmallow fluff. Make a side of veggies more fun with homemade hummus or pesto. The most important advice we can give is to involve your child in the process of choosing healthier foods, so they’ll be more likely to eat what you pack.
Tips for Healthy Dinner
The common belief that salads are not a filling meal is absolutely untrue! While a bowl of lettuce may have your stomach growling in an hour, a protein-packed salad with lean meat, grains and hearty vegetables is a satisfying and easy meal for a busy weeknight. Try couscous or quinoa atop a bed of greens with chickpeas, grilled chicken or salmon, avocado and tomatoes. If you don’t think your family will be happy to see plates of salad on the dinner table, make sure the meal has a balance of lean meat and vegetables.
When there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to make a healthy meal for your family, let us do the cooking for you! Stop by our restaurant in Wallingford today.