As the summer flies by and kids go back to school, it’s a great time to regroup and get everyone back on track in terms of making better choices. Whether you are packing your own lunch, the kids’ lunch, or figuring out what’s for dinner this week, here are five things you can do now to set the rest of the year up for success!
- Change the menu with the weather and the harvest. Summer peaches, watermelon, cherries, and corn can be swapped out for apples, squash, tomatoes, and other fun fall foods. Most people still don’t eat the fruits and vegetables needed and recommended for health, so by focusing on these two beautiful and delicious food groups, it helps build in balance, nutrition, and interest. Find a few recipes that work well for a fast dinner and create great leftovers for lunches or a freezer meal for busy days in the future. Check out our recipe section for inspiration appropriate for the time of year!
- Equip yourself. Make sure menus are easy to make, store, and transport. Start with bowls with lids that can go from freezer to microwave to table (look for individual serving sizes as well as large enough for casseroles). Invest in a good thermal lunch bag or small cooler, ice packs, and utensils/drinkware that is easy to clean and simple to use.
- Cook ahead. Weekends or less hectic days after school or work can be a great time to make a bigger meal or a couple of dishes so other days that are more overscheduled still have mealtime in mind. Try casseroles, soups, and/or stews/chili for meals that are easy to make in quantity, freeze well, and taste great reheated. Plan on making meals that fill the oven: a couple of casserole dishes can fit side by side in the oven, or one roasting pan with a mixed meal like a roast with vegetables can fit next to a pan of extra roasting veggies—giving you a bounty of options for dinner, as well as fixings for salads and sandwiches for later.
- Keep it simple. Make mealtime easy. One pot meals, salads with multiple food groups, and sandwiches are time savers that can easily provide a balanced meal that each family member can individualize and participate in making.
- Replace mealtime stress with mealtime fun! Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a chef to make a great meal. Think of your favorite foods, determine what dishes would balance them out, and enjoy! Macaroni and cheese is great with added veggies; fried chicken can be balanced with a vegetable-based soup and/or salad with a vinegar-based dressing; and condiments like salsa can replace mayo to keep an eye on calories and still provide plenty of interest and taste. Check out our recipes and how-to section for more inspiration.
Kim Kirchherr, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, FAND