Dietitian-approved back to school strategies to make feeding your kids easier (and more nutritious!).
This post was written as part of a previous partnership with Get Cracking. As always, all opinions are my own.
How is it that time again?! It seemed like the summer—once again—flew by, and we’re now fully focused on getting ready for back to school. A big part of getting ready for back to school is adjusting back into a meal and snack routine. Buying new lunch kits, stocking up on snacks, healthy school lunch ideas, and starting to think about fitting in nutritious but easy suppers on nights that are full with activities.
As much as we all love flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to food (hello summer!), it’s honestly better for everyone to establish a good eating routine. And you guessed it — back to school is the perfect opportunity for that. With 3 kids in full time school now, I know first-hand how important it is to be organized, plan ahead and have some strategies and hacks that save time and stress. And quite honestly, being prepared and establishing a routine helps me to feel a bit of peace of mind heading into another unpredictable school year.
In this blog post we’ll cover:
- The importance of protein in your child’s back to school menu plan
- Why make-ahead breakfasts will save your sanity
- Easy batch-baking ideas and recipes and why these are important
- Some nutritious ideas for quick and easy weeknight suppers
The importance of protein-packed meals and snacks for school days:
Not surprisingly, breakfast is a really important meal for growing kids. A balanced breakfast sets kiddos up for a productive day where they can focus, concentrate, learn and stay active. It’s important to include a few key nutrient in kid’s breakfasts to help provide (and sustain) energy levels and brain power. One of those nutrients is protein. Protein provides building blocks for the growth and repair of the cells in muscles, organs, skin, and nails. The body also uses protein to make enzymes and hormones. Protein also helps repair and make cells, and is an important part of the immune system, to protect the body against viruses and bacteria.
For children, protein promotes proper growth and development, so it’s extra important to get enough every day.
Protein comes from both animal and plant foods – things like eggs, meat, fish, dairy foods, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds. Wondering about amounts of protein for kids? Read this post on how much protein your child needs. Here are my top 3 back to school nutrition hacks that will save you time, money and stress:
Hack #1: Make protein-packed breakfasts ahead of time
Although kids don’t require a ton of protein every day to meet their needs, it’s important that it is offered at each meal and snack, not only for the reasons above, but also because it helps to keep them fuller longer and sustain their energy throughout the day. This can help kids to focus and concentrate better in school too (because their blood sugar levels aren’t roller-coastering all day!).
Because we don’t have as much control over what gets eaten during the day at school (let’s be honest…), I always make sure to serve a protein-rich breakfast at home. Eggs are our go-to breakfast champion because they are jam-packed full of protein—6.5 grams per large egg—and loaded full of 14 other essential nutrients such as iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, Folate and choline. Eggs are also SO versatile – from pancakes to egg bites to frittatas, there are so many ways to prepare them!
I’m all about making as much ahead as possible, including breakfasts! Here are my top 3 favourite make-ahead egg recipes to try with your kids. Other make-ahead breakfasts that we love are overnight oats, apple cinnamon oatmeal muffins, slow-cooker porridge, the easiest oatmeal muffins you’ll ever make, mason jar smoothies and waffles!
Hack #2: Batch Bake (and freeze)
I reserve a good chunk of every Sunday for batch baking. Muffins, cookies, energy balls, granola bars—there’s always a batch of each to be found in my freezer. I choose super easy, nutritious recipes that are tried-and-true, and school safe (obviously). Whenever a recipe calls for nuts or nut butters, I replace with a seeds, seed butter or soy butter. These are perfect for recess snacks, or after-school snacks. Here are our faves:
- Green Monster Muffins
- Chocolate Lentil Protein Muffins
- Choco-Chia Protein Bites
- Quick and Easy Muffin-tin Omelets
- Sweet and Salty Chocolate Lentil Granola Bars
- No-Bake Coconut Almond Energy Bites
Hack #3: Have an arsenal of easy under-30-minute supper meals:
When schedules fill up, activities start, and weeknights become a little more hectic, there’s nothing worse than having nothing planned for supper when 5 o’clock rolls around. And it can happen so easily! Even with me! Full disclosure…I’m not the best at meal planning. In fact, I’m terrible at it. I have the best of intentions, but never actually do it. And if I do, it lasts about a week and then falls by the wayside. So, I instead have a mealtime strategy that works GREAT for me. I have a weeknight survival supper list that includes our favourite, easy, 30-minute meals–you know, the ones that you can throw together at the last minute. All I have to do is have some essentials on-hand at all times–things like eggs, coconut milk, chicken broth, cheese, ground beef and turkey, canned tomatoes, beans, and corn, quinoa, pasta, and some fresh veggies. We love egg-containing recipes for supper because they are SO quick and easy – things like this Weeknight Veggie Frittata or this Easy Egg Burrito Bake. And here are my top 10 favourite quick and easy weeknight suppers.
If you haven’t picked up your copy of our book Food to Grow On: The Ultimate Guide to Childhood Nutrition from Pregnancy to Packed Lunches, you must. We cover pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about feeding your babies and children, including early school nutrition. I promise it will become your feeding bible!
Food to Grow On is the definitive guide to childhood nutrition, packed with practical advice to support you through pregnancy, and up until your little one starts school.
Laid out in an easy-to-navigate question and answer style, this book provides practical advice and support from Sarah Remmer and Cara Rosenbloom, two trusted registered dietitians (and moms). Food to Grow On is packed with hard-earned parenting wisdom and the very latest research in pediatric nutrition, so you will feel supported, understood, and ready to help your child thrive.