Shorter days and cooler weather can create a wonderful back-to-routine feeling. While you might miss leisurely summer days, fall provides a tranquil structure that allows you to focus on the things that really matter. If you have kids — or you’re going back to school yourself — you’re probably buying school supplies, getting to bed earlier, and jugging the extracurricular activities that a new school year brings.
Back to school also provides an excellent opportunity to dial up healthy food ideas for your family. Healthy lunches for kids makes a great place to start, but they also set the tone for an entire day’s healthy eating. For healthy lunch ideas — or really, any time healthy ideas for kids — focus on foods with healthy fats, protein, and fibre. You should also minimize or eliminate processed carbs, which are often high in added sugars and low in nutrients.
MaxLiving’s Core Plan provides a solid eating regimen that creates sustained energy, vibrant health, and a healthy weight for you and your kids. For more specific issues such as food intolerances, consider the Advanced Plan.
Eight Meal Prep Tips
When you provide your kids with flavourful, delicious foods, they feel good, perform better in the classroom and sports field, and maintain energy. Plus, you feel better giving them the right fuel and being an example for them. Back-to-school healthy meal ideas shouldn’t be time-consuming. In fact, you’ll find with the right strategies, you spend less time and effort to prepare healthy lunches and other meals for your kids. These eight tips provide an excellent foundation for healthy lunches and healthier overall eating.
1. Stock up on essentials.
Buying non-perishable and frozen items can save you time and money. Make a list of things you use often, including nuts and seeds, protein powder, spices, and frozen vegetables. Among your options to stock up include:
- Warehouse stores
- Online stores
- Grocery delivery services
- Grocery stores (shop the sale circular)
2. Swap it out.
You’re likely aware of what happens when you tell your child they can’t or shouldn’t eat something. Instead of restricting them or abstaining, swap out something healthier to accommodate your child’s favourites. You can upgrade nearly any food that your kid loves. For instance:
- Swap out fries or potatoes for sweet potatoes.
- Swap out pasta for spaghetti squash or zucchini noodle pasta.
- Swap out the bun for a lettuce or cabbage wrap.
- Swap out chips for this healthy trail mix.
- Swap out crackers for raw nuts or seeds.
3. Switch it up.
Who says you need to stick to a routine? Break the script and have something completely different for meals. Breakfast for dinner? Why not. Make a big egg omelette or scramble with some sauteed vegetables or a salad. You might also serve dinner leftovers for breakfast or lunch. Or get creative and throw a few appetizers together as a meal, such as these healthy pasta-less potstickers.
4. Plan ahead.
Healthy lunch ideas don’t just happen. You need to plan them. Luckily, you needn’t turn meal prep into a new hobby. Make a list of essentials for when you go grocery shopping. If you’re really tight on time, you can have groceries delivered. Schedule in an hour or so every Sunday and Wednesday evening to plan the next few days’ meal ideas.
5. Let your kids take (some) control.
Kids feel empowered when they choose what foods land in their lunch bag and dinner plate. Plus, they’re less likely to swap out those lunch box staples when they love them! Provide your kids with some choices about what foods they want to eat. Some ideas to get started include:
- Grain-free, nut-free blueberry muffins
- Apple slices with cinnamon, grapes, or berries with coconut flakes
- Guacamole with raw veggies
- Coconut flour bread with pumpkin seed or sunflower seed butter (great nut-free alternatives to peanut butter or nut butters).
- Raw veggies with classic hummus
- Sauteeing vegetables in extra-virgin coconut oil and garlic or butter
- Delicious snacks like Sugar-free Cinnabites
Many schools have a strict no-nut or no peanut policy to protect students with severe allergies. It is important to know your local school’s policies in this regard. Coconut flour is a great alternative when baking to replace nut flours. Sunflower seed or pumpkin seed butters can replace peanut butter or other tree-nut butters, depending on the school specifications.
6. Get everyone involved.
Gathering everyone together to prepare healthy meals makes a great opportunity to catch up and be together. Your youngest kids can do rudimentary tasks like tearing lettuce or snapping vegetables. Older children can cut, dice, and cook healthy meals. Take turns setting the table. Most importantly, make the ambience lively and fun so everyone feels good while they’re together.
7. Don’t neglect delicious desserts and snacks.
A sugary mid-afternoon snack can undo the healthy lunch your kids ate, but most kids have a sweet tooth. That doesn’t mean you need to keep sugary processed foods in your kitchen. Instead, keep healthy snacks and desserts on hand. There’s no need to compromise with healthy, delicious choices like Paleo Pecan Shortbread Cookies and Apple Flax Seed Muffins.
8. Make breakfast easy.
In the frantic pace of morning, breakfast sometimes takes a backseat. Many breakfasts are engineered for convenience, but sugary processed foods can sabotage mental performance and energy levels. Easy solution: a protein smoothie makes a fast, convenient way to slip in leafy greens and other nutrient-rich foods. When you mask the taste with flavourful ingredients like cacao nibs, your kids won’t even know if you’ve slipped some spinach or kale into the smoothie! Kids love this fast, filling Superfood Gingerbread Smoothie.
For their best performance in and outside of the classroom, kids need the right fuel. Back to school makes the ideal time to establish and maintain meal prepping and the right foods. When you pack healthy lunches and provide smart meal choices that satisfy your kids’ appetite and tastebuds, you set the tone for a healthy, happy school year where everyone works and plays at their peak.