What New (School) Year resolutions are you making this year? I know that you have them…we all do. September means crisp new notebooks, pencils with perfect points and all the promise of a school year that is organized, productive and dare I say…healthy?
Okay, so maybe I lost you on the last one. But I’m sure that as much as some of you are looking forward to getting the kids back to school, many are also anxious about getting back to a hectic schedule that seems to leave you just getting by on most days. Your best intentions to offer your family balanced, healthful meals are lost as you just hope you don’t forget to pick your child up at soccer practice.
Concern about your family’s nutrition undoubtedly folds into other worries. The problem is that, unlike deciding if you are going to engage in another activity, feeding your family healthful, wholesome meals and snacks just simply can’t be “skipped.” Before I add more fear to your day, let’s begin to figure out how to make it easier.
Start with breakfast because, yes, it is the most important meal of the day for all of us. Breakfast does not have to be big or complicated; it just has to be balanced. Balanced means protein, fat and carbohydrate. Use the stars to guide you. Three-star nuts and natural nut butters (and one or two star nut butter alternatives) are simple protein-rich toppings for waffles, pancakes, oatmeal and yogurt and toast that will keep your children sustained, attentive and ready to learn . A three Guiding Star cereal includes a whole grain option (there are many), fruit, skim milk and at least a tablespoon of nuts (for example). This provides healthful fat and protein to keep your children sustained, attentive and ready to learn. For me, in my home, our other quick go-to is reduced fat cheese, which we add to whole grain toast and bagels (again, for protein).
Then there is lunch, probably one of your biggest school day challenges. The premise is the same as it was for breakfast–aim for balance. But with lunch, balance isn’t only applied to nutrition. What makes it more challenging in many ways are the variations, buying vs. bringing, having to do it day after day and keeping it interesting. The school lunch in most public schools, unfortunately, is not what it should be (a blog post for another day). You should look to limit “buying” to one or two days per week.
For “bringing” days, there are many options, including sandwiches, wraps, salads and even one meant for a “grazer.” For sandwiches, choose three-star whole grain bread (aim for one with three to four grams of fiber and four to five grams pf protein per slice). Start with high protein bread if your kids prefer less protein-rich sandwiches, which I am quite familiar with as my daughter prefers only jelly sandwiches! On her three-star Hannaford Nature’s Place bread, she is still getting ten grams of protein. Is your child is more of a grazer? Pick up one of the new and popular bento boxes available at many stores and include a variety of nutritious, star-rated foods such as hummus, whole grain crackers, fresh vegetables and diced chicken.
Lastly, the end of day question of “what’s for dinner” can lead to stress. Reduce it by keeping the same ideas in mind for a balanced meal and a variety of nutrients (and remember that today’s dinner can easily be part of tomorrow’s lunch). If you need recipe ideas, check out the many star-rated recipes on guidingstars.com. Look for another helpful tool, the Food Finder, which can be used to make a shopping list of star-rated products to increase the nutritional benefit of your meals (and even make your shopping faster!).
I know that it is hard to think about getting healthful meals on the table or in your child’s backpack every day, but it is well worth the effort. In fact, many studies show that children who eat breakfast and are well-nourished throughout the school day are actually also better behaved. If that’s not a reason to help your children eat well, I don’t know what is!
About our Consulting Dietitian
Allison Stowell MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian and a working mom of two. Allison enables individuals to make positive, sustainable changes in their eating habits by stressing conscious eating, improving relationships with food and offering a non-diet approach for reaching and maintaining ideal body weight.
She also runs a successful private practice with offices in Danbury, CT, Bedford Hills, NY and Mahopac, NY. Since 2007, Allison has also worked with the grocer, Hannaford Brothers Corporation, as a Nutrition Coordinator. She provides complementary nutrition classes and tours, community workshops and one-on-one shopping experiences at their Carmel, NY location.
She joins the Guiding Stars team to help people in a number of sectors (grocery, hospitals, schools and universities) to understand how to use the Guiding Stars nutrition navigation program to make healthier food choices.
Allison lives in Connecticut with her husband, two small children and her dog, Chase.