It’s that time of year — summer is ending and school has started. We leave the carefree, flexible lifestyle behind and head back to schedules and routines. Love it or hate it, it’s happening and we need to be ready. But back to school doesn’t have to be just about new supplies and school clothes. It can also be about getting back to a healthy lifestyle and diet that may have gotten a little…. lax over the summer months.
It’s important to think about ways to get your kids eating healthy during and after long days at school. Although you can’t buy fresh produce far in advance, you can start stocking up on school lunch essentials like whole-wheat crackers, natural nut butters, food storage containers, insulated lunch bags and water bottles.
Talk with your children and plan the items they would like to pack for lunch or have for snack after school. Use this as an opportunity to guide them toward healthy choices like apple slices, celery, spinach, grapes, carrots and lean meats. Even if your child will be buying school lunch, you should plan some afterschool snacks and have easy-to-eat fruits and vegetables on hand. Here are some great ideas of snacks:
- Carrots and hummus. A great source of fiber and vitamin A, you can find small packs of baby carrots and single-serve hummus containers in most produce departments.
- Whole apples, bananas, peaches, oranges and other fruits pack well and last all day. You can also pack fresh berries in Ziploc containers to avoid smashing in backpacks.
- Celery and nut butters. If your child has a peanut allergy (or for variety) try almond or soy butter to pack a little protein with this popular veggie.
- Whole grain crackers and cheese. Stack Triscuits, Wheat Thins or other fiber-rich crackers with low-fat cheese.
- Cottage cheese with fruit and wheat germ. It’s kind of like chunky cheesecake.
- Slices of leftover roasted chicken or turkey.
- Lower-salt, lower-fat popcorn.
- 100-calorie packs of natural almonds—without added sugar or salt.
- Veggie sticks: zucchini, red pepper, sugar-snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and a healthy dip.
- Hard-boiled eggs—pre-peeled for younger kids.
- Add fresh fruit and a touch of honey to unsweetened low-fat yogurt.
- Tortilla rolls: spread a whole-wheat tortilla with bean dip, low-fat cheddar cheese, spinach leaves and shredded carrots. Roll up the tortilla and pack.
- Pita pockets: Cut a whole-wheat pita pocket in half and spread the inside with nut butter, yogurt, or low-fat ricotta cheese. Add slices of apple or banana.
- Cereal balls: mix together a healthy whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, nut butter, Craisins (dried cranberry) and flaked coconut. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls and store.