Fueling Your Family for Back to School

29 08 2017


Who is feeling the stress of “back to school”? We sure are. Dealing with a new school, new teachers, bus schedules, the dreaded “parent paperwork”, high school sports, college classes, bills, etc. Oh, and the “we need to go shopping for a homecoming dress”. Whaaaat?? Throw in our own full time jobs, managing a home, and trying to squeeze in some family time, there seems to be very little time left to focus on healthy behaviors.

I hear you. I’m there. The struggle is real.

But, nourishing our bodies and treating them with kindness and care helps give us the energy we need to deal with those hectic, stressful days. Taking a few minutes to do some meal planning at the beginning of each week will save time and reduce the stressful feeling when you hear those horrifying words: “What’s for dinner?”.

I know you panic every time you hear those words! You’re tired, you’re hungry, and you don’t want to think. So, here are 5 tips to keep you and your family on track at dinner time…

  1. Check your schedule for the week. Who needs to be where, when? How many evening meals can be eaten at home? How many need to be on the go? How can you use leftovers to save time?
  2. Plan your evening meals. This should take no more than 10 minutes (maybe up to 20 if you’re getting all fancy and looking up recipes!). To keep meals simple, just use your plate. Plan a protein, vegetable, fruit, and whole grain or starchy veggie (you know, corn, peas, potatoes…). Have a serving of dairy if you like (great source of protein, calcium, and other nutrients). Want an easy example? Check out the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate here: D Harvard Healthy Eating Plate
  3. Try to stick with whole foods if you can. And yes, whole foods can be easy and convenient! Use products like pre-cut vegetables and fruit, frozen vegetables and fruit, bagged salad, minute brown rice, frozen quinoa, canned beans, fresh ground turkey patties, etc. Get some quick and easy ideas for a stocking a healthy pantry here: The Good Pantry
  4. Check your inventory and make a grocery list! Yes, grocery shopping is necessary to be sure you have everything on hand that you need! Check out this blog and meal planning worksheet from Real Mom Nutrition! Sally does a bang up job helping parents navigate their way through hectic days and meal planning pitfalls. Take a few minutes to surf through her web site….it’s great!
  5. Prep some things ahead. Chop vegetables and fruit for recipes and snacks. Brown or pre-cook meats for tacos, sauces, soups, casseroles. Set out kitchen gadgets you will need like the crock pot, food processor, skillet, or casserole dishes. I find the more I prep ahead, the smoother our evenings go. Taking time on a Sunday evening to get organized helps me a lot.

Above all, apply the KISS principle (keep it simple, silly)! Dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet, but it should be easy and nourishing. You and your family need to reboot after a long day of work, school, practice and other activities. Putting good fuel in the tank helps give us the energy to face another busy day.

What will you do this week to help get a simple healthy meal on your family’s table? We hope you share your ideas with us!

Cathy Shaw RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist for the WV PEIA Weight Management Program

Cathy head shot




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