Back to School Family Meal Planning | Back to Life, Back to Reality
The height of the summer is winding down. The temps are already dropping to more humane numbers, and the days of sleeping in and non-stop snack raiding are coming to a close. It’s time for everyone in the family to reset and get ready for the school year.
You remember starting last year off with the best intentions, but they didn’t quite make it to the holiday break. This year, I’ve got your back for sustainable tips to best fuel your littles (and yourself) for their best school year yet!
If you’re a family of early birds and have time to sit and reflect before calmly leaving your home for the day, floating on clouds and rainbows, this isn’t for you.
This is for my multiple snooze button-hitting, no-limit soldiers who go to war every morning, but may be looking to take a little edge off this year.
Still, in many expert opinions, it’s the most important meal of the day and can make or break the rest of your day.
To put together the best breakfast, you want to think of protein, quality carbohydrates (including fiber), and some healthy fats. A well-balanced meal like this keeps you sharp and gives you lasting fuel to navigate those first few periods of the day. It will also make that morning commute less inductive of homicidal thoughts.
My favorite go-to’s are:
- Egg bites or egg muffins– a super simple recipe that you can make in bulk for the week or more, (keep them frozen), and just reheat in the am.
- Fillings of choice- spinach, onions, tomato, kale, cheese, meat
- Scrambled eggs- think one per muffin
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place approx 1-2 tablespoons of your filling in each muffin cup, then pour some of the scrambled eggs on the top until the cup is about ¾ full. Bake at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on top and firm all the way through. For more breakfast inspiration, check out these 7 easy egg muffin recipes.
Pro Tip: These silicone muffin cups are a game changer for cleanup; you don’t need to spray them with oil or butter.
- Pre-made oatmeal– you could go with the packets of sadness or you could cook a big pot, and separate into individual containers with your toppings of choice.
- The toppings are where the good stuff comes in, like fruit, seeds and nuts for added nutrition, (see more on my thoughts of breaking the oatmeal trauma cycle here).
- In the morning, add a little milk or water, heat, stir and go!
- Pre-made smoothies/ protein shakes– if you or your littles aren’t really big on breakfast, smoothies or protein shakes are a great idea. They still get a boost of nutrition to start their day without too much, too soon on their stomachs. Especially on the first day when butterflies may be taking up all of the breakfast room.
- I suggest hitting up Amazon for a batch of empty bottles and making your drink of choice ahead of time for the week.
- We like Carnation Instant Breakfast Essentials® made with Ripple Plant-Based Kids Milk in our home (too much dairy is not our friend around here), and a little Ovaltine for that extra razzle-dazzle.
Store your smoothies in the freezer, but place the smoothie for the next morning in the fridge. This will allow it to thaw while retaining a frosty texture. Just give it a shake on your way out and you’re good to go.
For some schools, lunch has come a long way with variety and quality nutrition to set any parent at ease. But other schools still need to do some work. In some cases, it’s allergies or sensitivities that make eating lunch at school more difficult to navigate. For the kid with a more discerning palate and lactose intolerance, like my guy, cold cuts with cheese and chocolate milk just wouldn’t do, and I had to get creative.
This insulated food jar saved the day, (pro-tip I found ours at Marshalls or TJMaxx for a ⅓ of the cost)!
- Again, when putting your child’s meal together, be sure to include fiber and protein to keep them fueled and satisfied for the second half of the day. Heat it up before you leave the house and they will have a warm custom-cooked meal by lunch!
- Get them involved. Look at recipes together and let them help prep. This will reduce the risk of them going hungry because they don’t want or can’t identify what you sent, (was that just me).
- You can also go hybrid and look through the school’s menu ahead of time, together, and plan which days they may want to get lunch from school.
Ah, that time of the day when you’re too tired to be creative, and too hungry to grocery shop without going bankrupt, so you hit the drive-thru again, or see your favorite dasher for the 4th time this week. Your wallet and waistline are saying, “Something’s gotta give!”
Let me help you break this cycle by telling you about the sheet pan meal. Maybe this concept is new to you or new to you again, either way, let’s talk about it.
A “sheet pan meal” is when you put your protein, starch, and vegetable of choice divided into three sections on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, season to taste, roast all together and boom, dinner is done! It is also a great way to prep your lunches.
- Protein- chicken, steak, shrimp, fish, sausage, meatballs
- Veggies- zucchini, squash, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, brussels sprouts, asparagus
- Starch- potatoes of all varieties, butternut squash, plantain, yucca
Prep and freeze all of your ingredients during the weekend or don’t be afraid to lean on pre-chopped and seasoned frozen vegetable blends.
If this is still a lot for a weeknight, use an air fryer like this one, with all of the same ingredients, and you’ll have a dinner to satisfy a foodie and make a dietitian mom proud in 15 minutes or less.
You’re all set
I can already tell this is going to be a great school year! Adding this little bit of structure to the chaos will feel great and your whole family will have meals they can look forward to.
This doesn’t have to be perfect every day or every week. It will take some time to get used to a new routine, but it’s so worth it. Who knows, you may even find your own cloud or rainbow to float out on in the morning once you hit pro status!