By Stacey Stein
With September looming, the carefree days
of summer will soon give way to the more structured days of fall.
When contemplating school year routines,
thoughts often turn to food. Come late August, you may be asking yourself how
you’re going to get your kids fed in the morning and off to school before the
bell rings, what kind of dinners you can pull off while making it to
hockey/dance/piano lessons on time, and how you’re going to survive 10 months
of lunch-making during the morning crunch.
Fear not: we have ideas for easy, on-the-go
meals and snacks, along with some helpful tips, to help keep things running
smoothly during the school year while ensuring your family is well fed.
A little planning goes a long way
“People get this idea in their mind that a
meal plan has to be a complicated thing, but it doesn’t have to be,” she says. “Keep
it simple – you can make easy, nutritious meals at home with just a little bit
We all know we should be making meal plans, but actually doing it often feels
overwhelming. According to registered dietitian Shannon Crocker, it doesn’t have
to be this way.
Crocker has three tips. First, she suggests
doing some limited meal planning on the weekend, even if it’s for the first
three days of the week. Second, she recommends doing some meal prep ahead of
time. The weekend is a good time to get a few simple things ready that will
help set you up for the week – think chopped up veggies, a batch of muffins for
after-school snacks, or a few jars of overnight oats for a quick, healthy
Crocker’s final tip is “cook once, eat
twice.” This means making a double batch of whatever you’re cooking for dinner
so you can re-purpose it for lunch or dinner the next day.
“Think of ways to reinvent leftovers,” says
Crocker. “Plan for meals where supper is reinvented for lunch the next day.”
Make breakfast a breeze
A good breakfast will fuel your family for
a full day at school or work. “Think healthy fats, protein and fibre to keep
you focused for the day,” says Crocker.
If you have some time on the weekend, she
recommends making a double batch of pancakes, like these protein-packed apple
pie cottage cheese pancakes. Put a bunch in the fridge and pop them in the
oven during the week for a fast, nutritious breakfast.
You can also try this baked
banana chip oatmeal to go, which makes for a perfect grab n’ go breakfast. Crocker
describes this recipe as a crossover between a muffin and oatmeal (tip: replace
the sour cream with Nordica Smooth Plain cottage cheese for a hit of protein).
Short on time in the morning? These strawberry
coconut overnight oats only require 10 minutes of prep the night before.
Filled with protein and fibre, they’ll give you a boost of energy in the
Also requiring just a few minutes to
prepare, this blueberry
acai smoothie bowl is full of powerhouse ingredients like kale, blueberries
and cottage cheese, and will keep you energized all morning.
Leftovers for lunch
Many dinners can be reinvented as lunch the
next day, like these cheesesteak
quesadillas. While delicious as a hot meal for dinner, the leftovers will
make for a great cold lunch the next day.
Leftover chili or soup packed in an
insulated container also makes for a great lunch. Loaded with wholesome
ingredients, this hearty quinoa
and sweet potato chili will keep you satisfied until dinner.
School-age kids can make their own lunches,
saving you time in the morning while giving kids a chance to help out. Bento
box lunches are easy to assemble and don’t require any cutting. Kids can toss
some cubed cheese, crackers, snap peas and grapes into containers for a fun and
healthy snack-style lunch.
Another snack-style lunch that Crocker
recommends is the deconstructed sandwich. Pack the bread, filling and veggies
into separate containers the night before. Kids can assemble their sandwich at
school the next day (or eat everything separately). You can try this Mediterranean
tuna pita sandwich, which tastes great eaten deconstructed or enjoyed
Keep it simple with DIY dinners
DIY dinners not only get everyone involved
at suppertime, they also allow people to build their meal the way they like it
best. A salad bar supper is a great DIY meal and can introduce kids to
different veggies. Make sure to involve your family in the prep work – older
kids can cut up veggies and cheese. Other DIY dinner ideas include fajitas, a
sandwich bar, or power bowls filled with a variety of healthy ingredients, like
power bowl or this sweet
potato and black bean Buddha bowl.
If you’re pressed for time, try rethinking dinner.
A grilled cheese sandwich paired with a side salad works just as well for
supper as it does for lunch. No time to cut up veggies? Crocker recommends
using a bagged salad mix to put together a salad in under a minute.
While everyone loves a good old-fashioned grilled
cheese sandwich, if you have a little bit of extra time, you can try a twist on
the classic with this roast
beef and horseradish grilled cheese or this Mexican
fiesta grilled cheese.
Sheet pan suppers are another ingenious
time-saver. “Toss all the meat and veggies on one pan and dinner takes care of
itself,” says Crocker. Two sheet pan dinners Crocker recommends are this garam
masala turkey and these honey
chipotle sheet pan steak fajitas.
Simple & satisfying after-school snacks
Quick after-school snacks don’t need to be
unhealthy. Packaged snacks may seem like an obvious go-to, but Crocker says
after school is a great time to put out cut up veggies with dip or fresh fruit (or
tortilla chips) paired with a caramel apple dip (try this recipe).
For a grab n’ go snack on the way to an after-school program, try these cinnamon
orange bran muffins or on a warm fall day, these berry
popsicles are packed with protein but will still satisfy kids who have a