By Tasia Allen (Holistic Nutritionist)
September is always a busy time of the year with the summer coming to an end and the beginning of the school year. Often times September is associated with a fresh start and the creation of new routines. It is a great opportunity to build some healthy habits around nutrition and meal planning.
During this time of year we are reminded that nutrition is especially important for children and teenagers as they are still growing and their brains are still developing. The habits developed and food choices made now will have an impact on them later in life. The food choices made now also affect their current state- eating healthy can help to improve concentration, provide them with more energy, improve mood and improve performance in school or sports. Proper nutrition also fuels growth (Growth spurts usually happen around ages 12-15). Because of this, teenagers have greater nutrition needs. Most teenagers will have an increase in their appetite so they can get the nutrition they need to grow. This is when nutrient dense snacks and meals are especially important. This will help to ensure and support bone growth, hormonal changes and proper development of tissues, muscles and organs. Most importantly, this is a great opportunity to educate about nutrition and focus on the fact that eating should be fun, satisfying and enjoyable!
A good way to accomplish this is by picking a night or two during the week and meal prepping together. We can start to do this by finding recipes that are easy to make as well as healthy. We can also start to become more familiar with healthy ingredients and how to use them. Some other ways to get your kids involved with cooking and meal planning include spending more time in the kitchen together, coming along for grocery shopping and prepping a meal once a week on their own or helping you to make a meal. Encouraging your kids to pack their own snacks and lunches is another great way to help them get comfortable in the kitchen and educate them on healthy food choices.
When planning for back to school snacks for your kids, it is helpful to look for food choices with minimal amounts of sugar and salt added and choosing whole grain products when possible. Making sure the snacks contain some protein and fat is a good way to ensure your kids will feel full for longer.
Some healthy snack ideas include:
- Vegetable sticks with ranch or hummus- carrots, celery, and cucumber
- Yogurt with fruit
- Hard boiled eggs
- Granola Bars
- Trail Mix- seeds, dried fruit, raisins, dark chocolate, favorite cereal
- Beef or turkey jerky
- Fruit- banana, apple, grapes, watermelon, berries
- Dried fruit and fruit bars
- Cheese and crackers
- Sandwiches- turkey and cheese, cucumber and cheese, jam
- Bagels topped with: avocado, sunflower seed butter or cream cheese and cucumbers or jam or smoked salmon
- Whole grain pretzels
This is also a great time of year for developing a routine around meal planning and healthy family meals. Sometimes meal prepping may seem a bit daunting at first, but in the end it will help to save you time and energy, which is perfect when your family is on the go with various activities and busy schedules. Meal prepping can also assist in saving you money and decreasing food waste.
Here are some of my favorite tips for meal prep:
- Starting slow and small will ensure sustainability. Start by planning a couple snacks or meals for the week.
- When planning a meal, keep each food group in mind. Make sure to include protein, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats.
- Invest in good quality storage containers. Glass containers are a great option, as they are ecofriendly and dishwasher and microwave safe.
- Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with staples. Having a few essential foods in the house will make meal prep less stressful as well as save time. Some examples include whole grains (rice, quinoa, oats, whole wheat pasta, millet) canned or dried legumes, oils (avocado, coconut, olive) and fresh or frozen veggies.
- Make time in your schedule for meal planning. Like building any new habit, consistency is key. Carve out a block of time every week that is dedicated to meal planning and prep. Making time and staying consistent will help you to be successful.
- Track and record your favorite meals so you can use them again. Your confidence in making them will increase the more you use the recipes.
- Batch cook by making large quantities of one or two meals and having a bunch leftover for the week. You can store the leftovers in the fridge or freezer.
- Vary your menu by trying new recipes and swapping out your usual go tos. For example, if you love cooking with rice, try quinoa or millet instead. If your favorite vegetable is squash, try out zucchini or broccoli. This will help you to stay inspired and not become bored of your menu.
- Take advantage of the bulk section of your local supermarket as a way to save money, buy only the amount you need, and reduce unnecessary packaging waste.
- Make it enjoyable. If the idea of meal prep seems daunting, try reframing it as an enjoyable activity or an act of self-care. Try listening to music or a podcast while doing it, or getting together with a friend or loved one and making it a fun activity you can do together.
Here are links to a few of my favorite easy and healthy week night meals:
- Quinoa Ground Turkey Skillet – One pan dinner (serves 4, double for leftovers)
- Spaghetti with Lentils in Marinara Sauce (serves 4, double recipe for leftovers)
- Fajita Style Pasta (serves 4-6)
- Teriyaki Salmon and Green Beans (serves 4, double recipe for leftovers)
- Chicken Enchiladas (serves 8)
- Smoked Sausage and Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner (serves 4)
If you feel you need a little extra personalized support, please book in and we can explore your specific needs and get a plan together for you!