Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Healthy Meals For Your Family During The School Year

It is that time of the year again – back to school! As parents, we know what this means for our schedules.

Father & Daughter giggling together

Photo: www.photographybyjoelle.com (Flickr)

Planning meals is a great way to spend time with your family during the busy school year.

The Hectic School Year

Yes, it is that time of the year again – back to school! As parents, we know what this means for our schedules, especially if you are a working full time and have multiple kids. With homework, projects, and extracurricular activities it becomes increasingly difficult to prepare healthy options at each meal time.

The key is to plan now before you get too far in to the school year. It is easy to let the year get a way from you and actually lose control your time to all of the activities that you may have going on with your family members.

The problem with losing control of your time is that we live in a fast food culture. If we do not plan our meals out, we can easily fall into the trap of eating fast food for too many meals.

Getting Involved In School Meals

Most schools are required to send out a school menu on a regular schedule. Take a look at the menu and don’t be afraid to ask your school administrators questions about where the food is coming from and how it is prepared.

Earth Eats contributor Julie Rooney wrote an excellent post about the Farm to School Meal Program. Her article has inspired me to take a look to see if my children’s schools are participating in this effort. If they are not, I want to find out ways that parents can get involved to make this a reality.

Resources For Quick And Healthy Meals

We all need some go-to websites or cookbooks when we are trying to determine nutritious and delicious meals to cook for our families.

I absolutely love getting ideas from Rachel Ray and her 30-Minute Meal program. Her websites and cookbooks are a great way to come up with meal ideas that are all made from items that you can easily find. I always add my own touches to the recipes, but it is a great place to start.

I also love the Eating Well website. It has everything from 20-minute meals to low calorie options.

Whole Foods and your local farmer’s markets are another great resource for meal ideas. The Whole Foods site currently has an excellent recipe for Macaroni and Trees (a fun way to add broccoli to the dish).

Last but certainly not least, Earth Eats is a great resource for deciding on meals to serve your family. Earth Eats provides excellent, seasonal meals that any parent can incorporate in to their meal plan.

Grocery Shopping With The Family

Although it may add to the length of time you are at the grocery store, take the kids with you some of the time. Let them help make decisions on what types of meals they would like to eat. If your kids are old enough, use this as an opportunity to teach them about reading the labels.

Also, this is an excellent opportunity to teach kids why you may make some of the choices that you make at the grocery store.

Plan to pick up some healthy grab-n-go options. It is always helpful to have carrots, celery, fruit, and trail mix items on hand for those times when kids get the munchies.

Planning With A Family Menu

Post a family menu in an area close to the kitchen. This will force you to plan what foods you may need to pick up at the grocery store, clip coupons for, or prep for if you have some extra time. This is also a place where you can ask for some family input.

By posting a menu, you can also decide if you would like to cook enough to freeze for a later date. One thing that I need to do a better job of is freezing leftovers in individual portion sizes. You can plan from your menu to freeze any leftover veggies to use in a soup later in the week.

You can also plan just-for-fun deserts that your kids can get excited about as a reward for doing good on a particular assignment at school or a chore at home.

A family menu is also an excellent way to determine what meals you may eat out as a family. You can determine ahead of time what restaurants to go to based on their menu items that particular day, or they may have a ‘kids eat free’ special that you do not want to forget about when you get busy during the week.

Parents Helping Parents

Leave us your family meal planning tips and tricks below. As parents, it does not hurt to steal great ideas from other parents. After all, we are all on a mission to keep our kids as healthy as possible.

Nicole I. Henderson

Nicole I. Henderson is a wife and mother of three kids. The question that she gets asked everyday is ‘What's for dinner?’ She has realized that what we put into our bodies has an impact on our health and well being. Nicole is coaching parents on how to transition and maintain healthy eating habits for their kids from her own journey as a parent. Nicole is also the owner of Selsi Enterprises, a marketing communications and event planning company based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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