If you’re like most parents, you probably have a real balancing act to perform between your jobs, child-raising and the general duties of adult life. At the same time, you are probably also concerned about your child’s nutrition in this age of fast-food, prepackaged meals and TV dinners. Below are some ideas for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks that will not scoop a lot of time out of your schedule (or money out of your pocketbook!) but will still give your child the foods they need to be healthy well into adulthood.
While breakfast is still considered by most nutritionists to be the most important meal of the day, it can also be the most challenging, since getting ready for school and work can make the average weekday morning pretty hectic! Fortunately, there are some pretty easy and healthy ways to make the meal count even when you’re busy!
- Old-fashioned oatmeal only takes about 10 minutes on the stovetop and is not only easy on your budget, it is incredibly versatile. You can add a combination of blueberries and maple syrup or fresh peaches or diced apples with raisins and walnuts, for instance, to change the flavor and prevent your kids getting bored.
- Loaded with protein and vitamin D, eggs are another great way to start the morning. Chopped up some onions, tomatoes and spinach and add them to a breakfast scramble. Or make a veggie omelet with mushrooms, green peppers and onions is also a great way to go. Pair it with a whole grain English muffin to balance the meal out.
- If you are really in a hurry, whole grain waffles that can be warmed in a toaster are a good way to help your kids load up on fiber for the morning. A little pat of butter, some real maple syrup and a side of turkey bacon can get everyone off to a healthy start.
While many schools are making honest attempts to improve the food being served in their cafeterias, the truth is there is still a long way to go. Many parents avoid this problem by simply making their children’s lunches to bring to school. Here are some great ideas for quick and healthy lunches during the school year:
- Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on a whole-grain bread are a great variation of the old-school PB&J’s and give your child a serving of fresh fruit with their meal.
- Wrap lunch up – literally – with whole grain tortillas stuffed with a variety of healthy fillings: egg salad with dill, cream cheese with veggies and ham or avocado, turkey and cranberry sauce.
- For the cold weather, consider getting a small thermos and sending your child to school with a variety of soups such as chicken noodle, potato or pasta-and-vegetable.
Weeknights can also be a challenge, particularly if you yourself work late or your child is involved with after-school activities like sports. However, it is still possible to whip up a healthy and tasty dinner that will not have you slaving in the kitchen for yours:
- Start with a pasta like whole grain rotini and add a can of marinara sauce and a variety of sautéed vegetables (such as mushrooms, onions, peppers, eggplant or zucchini). Serve with a green salad and whole grain bread to complete the meal.
- Make homemade healthy pizza with a whole grain pizza crust topped with sauce, veggies (like onions, tomatoes, olives or mushrooms) and low-fat mozzarella. Pair it with a fresh green salad and
- Baked chicken nuggets, served with sweet potato fries and coleslaw is likely to be a big hit with the kids and is a healthier alternative than the fast-food counterparts.
Once upon a time, snacks were considered to be a bit of a “no-no” but if they’re done right, they can really add to your child’s overall dietary intake for the day. Whether it’s after school or before bedtime, the following snacks are a great way to eat healthy in between meals:
- Peanut butter or cheese with whole grain crackers
- Low-fat yogurt with granola
- Fresh veggies with homemade dip
- Fresh fruit slices with yogurt dip
In short, ideas like the ones above can help to give your kids healthy, delicious meals and snacks that are time- and budget-friendly and will help the whole family eat better!