Tips to stocking your cupboards and fridge with healthy choices for the new school year
From new backpacks and lunch boxes to folders, paper and pencils, the end of summer signals a return to a more structured schedule. At our house, that means no more impromptu lunches and leisurely prepared dinners. Instead nutritious meals and snacks require a bit more forethought.
For our family, the easiest way to make sure the kids (and parents) are eating as well as we should is to stock our pantry and refrigerator with healthy choices.
For better performance (and less grumbling tummies before lunchtime), start the kids off with a nutritious breakfast, including whole grains and fresh fruit. Pack a lunch consisting of energy-sustaining snacks or mini-meals (our favorites include Trader Joe’s trail mix, nut or seed butter or hummus and whole grain crackers and fresh fruit (easy options include pre-packaged apple slices or a banana).
For dinnertime, plan a nutrient-dense meal filled with legumes, whole grains and vegetables.
So given these goals, here are some suggestions for pantry and fridge essentials to cover all of your meal and snack needs:
- High fiber, whole grain cold cereals with as little sugar as possible (less than 10 percent of total calories, and ideally closer to 5 percent).
- Fresh fruit to eat as-is or served in cereal or yogurt
- Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, couscous – for casseroles, stews or side dishes. A favorite in our home is to sauté diced peppers (red, green, yellow or orange), green onion, thinly sliced carrots and mushrooms and toss with a touch of olive oil into cooked quinoa. Make extra, it’s also great served cold and keeps in the fridge for a few days – to have on hand for a quick snack or side dish.
- Whole grain (sensing a pattern here?) bread for toast, sandwiches. We leave one loaf out and keep a couple on hand in the freezer to defrost as needed throughout the week.
- Whole grain pastas for quick meals. When pasta is done cooking, toss in some broccoli or peas for a kid-friendly veggie addition.
- Nut and/or seed butters to scoop with cut fruit or spread on whole grain bread or crackers
- Unopened packages of nuts and seeds – whole or ground (flax, chia, walnuts and almonds) for Omega 3s to add to cereal, muffins, etc.
- Sea veggies for snacks, wraps, sushi and to sprinkle on foods for a mineral boost.
- Veggies, veggies and more veggies! Dark leafy greens (the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet), asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot sticks, beets and any other vegetables your kids love (or will at least tolerate).
- Fridge-friendly fruits, such as apples, tomatoes, cucumbers and berries.
- Frozen fruit (berries, mango, peach) to be add to cereals, blend into smoothies or baked into muffins
- Frozen veggies to toss into soup or add to pastas and stews
Frozen veggie burgers, tofu burgers or “hot dogs,” Indian dishes (tandoori chicken) are great for last-minute meals (one of our favorites are the chicken, quinoa and mozzarella burgers at Costco.
Here’s to a happy and healthy school year!