Back-to-school tips: Quick, healthy, and kid-friendly meals


Summer may not be officially over, but with Labor Day behind us and the school year upon us change is definitely in the air. Letting of summer is never easy, but here are some tips from mom blogger Sally Kuzemchak that will simplify meal time for your family while saving yourself time, money, and energy.

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De-stress breakfast

+ 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.

+ 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 to kids 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.

+ 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

+ Don't overstuff: Pack small portions of main items, and include fruits and veggies as sides. You'll cut down on wasted food and encourage your child to eat healthier—without nagging.

+ 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.

+ 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.

Simplify dinnertime

+ 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.

+ 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!

+ 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 preselect healthier options. In general, choose grilled foods instead of fried, small fries instead of large, and water instead of soda.

Serve healthier snacks

+ 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.

+ 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 your kids need some crunch. Serve with a little salsa for extra flavor.

+ Feed your little athlete: A banana, some yogurt, or a handful of nuts and natural dried fruit will energize your kid for his or her soccer game. After the game, a combo of protein and carbs will help them repair muscles. Try an apple with peanut butter or some hummus with whole grain crackers.

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