BACK TO SCHOOL, BACK TO BUSY

Five tips for fast, healthy August meals

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Written By Donna Sibley, St. Vincent’s One Nineteen Wellness Dietician, RDN

 



For many parents, the back-to-school season means back-to-busy meal times. Rushed mornings, after-school activities and evening demands can challenge even the most nutrition-conscious families.

In real life, all families sometimes resort to drive-through burgers and fries. But with a little planning, fast and healthy food can be served at home or on the go. Here are my best tips for the back-to-school season:

  1. Make menus. This weekend, consult your calendar and kids. Then list, shop and prep next week’s menus. Note what works. Then repeat the process for two weeks, introducing new ideas. By September you’ll have 21 shortcut menus.
  2. Bag breakfast. When time runs short, bag a breakfast sandwich. Microwave whole wheat English muffins, topped with egg and Canadian bacon. Or, spread peanut butter and banana slices on toasted whole grain waffles. On Sunday night, boil eggs or make overnight oatmeal, spooned into individual containers. For a balanced meal-in-a-cup, blend a low-sugar smoothie. Combine Greek yogurt, a handful of spinach and frozen fruit.
  3. Love lunch. Vary your high-fiber fixings. Fill whole wheat buns, pita pockets or wraps with low-fat cheeses and meats. Tuck 100-calorie packs of nuts and/or prepackaged fruits (from apple slices to mandarin oranges) in insulated lunch boxes. Make raw veggies more appealing by providing individually-packaged dips, like hummus, peanut butter or guacamole cups. If refrigeration is available, include Greek yogurt for dessert.
  4. Stow snacks. After-school snacks can fuel young athletes and help prevent pre-dinner meltdowns. Have kids create their own trail mixes with nuts, pretzels, whole grain cereal and dried fruit. Keep packets of raisins or dried cranberries in the car. Fresh fruit is the ultimate fast food. Bananas, oranges and apples require no refrigeration, and can be eaten anytime.
  5. Designate dinner. Get supper on the table pronto by precooking meats. A skinned, sliced rotisserie chicken can be served with microwaved sweet potatoes and bagged veggies. Make browned ground turkey the base for tacos one night and spaghetti the next. When kids need a fast food fix, suggest they make individual pizzas out of pita or flat bread, jarred sauce, raw veggies and turkey pepperoni, topped with low-fat cheese.

Supplement those prepared meats with slow cooker meals. Frozen chicken filets can simmer all day in seasoned broth, then shredded to serve. As cooler weather arrives, add soups to the menu. Freeze individual soups or leftover main dishes for more on-the-go options this fall.

 

For information on St. Vincent’s One Nineteen’s individual nutrition consults or group cooking classes, call (205) 408-6550. For more information on all of St. Vincent’s One Nineteen’s offerings from urgent care to outpatient surgery, visit onenineteen.com.