The back-to-school season is upon metro Detroit, and the whole nation, and that means busy mornings, packed schedules, and the challenge of preparing nutritious meals that your kids will actually enjoy.
As parents, we all want to provide our children with balanced and wholesome meals that fuel their growing bodies and minds. To make the transition smoother, we spoke with our award-winning chefs – many of whom are parents – and they’ve provided 7 great tips for preparing healthy and easy back-to-school meals that both you and your kids will love.
1. Plan Ahead
The key to successful meal preparation is planning. Set aside some time each week to create a meal plan. Involve your kids in the process, and take their preferences into account. Planning ahead not only ensures that you have the necessary ingredients on hand, but it also saves you time during busy mornings.
2. Embrace Simple Recipes
While intricate dishes are wonderful on occasion, the school year demands simplicity. Opt for recipes that require minimal ingredients and preparation time. Think whole grain sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, or whole wheat wraps filled with lean proteins and fresh veggies.
“’Simple’ is really in the eye of the beholder. The key is knowing what works best for you and fits into your busy lifestyle,” says Chef Jacqueline Keller, Culinary Operations Manager at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace. “Instead of focusing on one thing you want to make for a lunch or snack try looking ahead at everything you can do with an ingredient. For example, grapes, they make a great fruit snack for the lunch box, but if you have chicken left from dinner last night you can whip up a simple chicken salad with grapes in it and at the end of the week you can toss them in with any other left over fruit and make a fruit salad.”
3. Pack in the Protein
Protein is essential for growing bodies. Incorporate protein-rich foods like lean meats, eggs, beans, and Greek yogurt into your kids’ meals. Protein helps keep their energy levels stable throughout the day and supports their muscle development.
4. Include Colorful Fruits and Veggies
Vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables are not only visually appealing, but also packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Make sure to include a variety of colorful options in your kids’ lunches. Consider carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, apple slices, and berries as easy-to-pack choices. And don’t be afraid to get a bit creative by considering some of our more exotic options that come from all parts of the world – such as rambutan, lychee, star fruit, and dragon fruit.
“Grape Tomatoes are great, whole or cut in half for the younger kids,” said Chef Jacqueline. “They are a great source of fiber and vitamin c along with being fun to smush between your teeth! Avocado are great source of healthy fats and great to dip whole grain crackers in.”
5. Prep Ahead of Time
Mornings can get chaotic, so prepare as much as you can the night before. Chop vegetables, portion out snacks, and even assemble sandwiches. Having everything ready to go will save you precious time during the morning rush.
6. Get Creative with Presentation
Kids are often drawn to visually appealing meals. Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes out of sandwiches or fruits. Bento-style lunches with compartments can make meals exciting and enjoyable. A well-presented meal can make a big difference in enticing your kids to eat healthily.
7. Don’t Forget Hydration and Snacks
In addition to meals, hydration and snacks are equally important. Provide your kids with a reusable water bottle and encourage them to drink water throughout the day. Choose healthy snacks like nuts, whole grain crackers, or cheese sticks to keep their energy levels stable between meals.
Chef Jacqueline offered up her favorited healthy meal as a kid: “My all-time favorite healthy lunch was hot soup! My mom would send me off with a big ole thermos of vegetable or barley soup. Sometimes I would find extra chicken or beef tossed in from dinner leftovers to add some extra protein.”
Remember, the goal is to create a balanced diet that incorporates a variety of nutrients. Be patient and open to trying different foods and combinations. We truly do have so much to choose from here at Nino Salvaggio’s, so peruse our aisles and get creative. By following these tips, you can ensure that your kids start the school year with nourishing meals that will keep them energized and ready to tackle their day. Healthy eating habits developed during childhood often extend into adulthood, setting the stage for a lifetime of well-being.