Whether this is your child’s first year of school or their last, the back to school season can be overwhelming. This is especially true when it comes to the meals and snacks we hope to prepare. This year, we want to help make your meals and snacks not just easy, but enjoyable too.
As a mom of two growing boys, I know meals and snacks can be chaotic any time of year; but this chaos seems exaggerated when school resumes in the fall. How do we reduce the chaos? By remembering that its okay for us to do our best and let that be enough. Especially when it comes to nutrition. How do we do that while also assuring ourselves our kids are indeed getting the nourishment they need? By focusing on variety, planning ahead, and looking for ways to enjoy eating experiences together.
Focus on variety. Providing kids with multiple food options encourages food exploration. If you’re packing a lunch, that might mean including a protein source, a grain or starch, a fruit a vegetable or both, and a dairy food. For snacks, choose to offer two to three different foods if your kids are younger and encourage older kids to choose foods that will compliment each other well by providing a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
If your older kids are looking to enjoy a snack after school, consider designating a spot in the fridge and in your pantry that is kept stocked with a variety of food group options. This will allow your kids to know exactly where to go to assemble a snack that satisfies. Also consider establishing a time that the snack should be eaten by. This well help ensure that everyone will arrive at the dinner table ready to eat.
Prep ahead and stay organized. Mornings are often busy for families trying to get kids and adults out the door. To help reduce morning stress and rest easy knowing everyone has something to eat during the day, consider prepping lunches ahead of time. This way lunch items can quickly be placed in reusable lunch bags right before everyone heads out the door. Using reusable containers with divided sections can also help keep foods organized.
Consider school lunches. Lunches offered in school are required to meet nutrition standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This means that lunch options offered at school are going to support your child’s growth and development. Additionally, free and reduced lunch options are offered, making school lunches an affordable option for families across income categories.
Don’t forget the how of eating. Children often do best with structure and support and this holds true when it comes to eating. Parents can provide this sort of assurance by making sure meals and snacks at home are part of the regular routine and offered at a table or while sitting down. Snacks should be offered or planned midway between meals, ensuring that your child isn’t too hungry or too full before a next meal.
Look for ways to enjoy meals and snacks together. It may not be realistic to eat every snack and meal with your child, but when you have the opportunity to do so, take full advantage. Not only will this give you the opportunity to model positive eating habits, but it can be a great way to connect with your family members. Research indicates that kids who participate in family meals benefit immensely. Benefits often associated with eating meals together include improved academic performance, higher self esteem, a great sense of resilience, lower risk of depression, and lower likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
Want some help putting these strategies into action? Our team of registered dietitian nutritionists are here to help. Book your family meal support session with us by calling 989-400-1478 or by booking online.