Get an Easy “A” in Back-to-School Meals
by Christina Meyer-Jax, Tastemaker in Residence
I don’t know about you, but the fall season makes me feel like I’m in a free fall? The tsunami of back-to-school season gives me hives as I think about the circus clown juggling act I need to perform every day. So the schedule has doubled (or let’s be honest quadrupled) in commitments, but the rest of life’s responsibilities, such as feeding the cast of characters, doesn’t go away. Now add in extra snacks for after school activities, a food allergy or two, and it’s quite a performance to keep the 3 rings going.
To be honest the struggle is real for me in many ways at the start of school. But since my professional life and passion is fueling fun lives, I have some simple strategies to help you get an easy “A” in your food life.
Pick Your Battles
Let’s be real about what we are willing to do on the food front (and then drop the guilt). If you like buying Bento Boxes and making lunches the night before. Awesome! There are so many great resources on building healthy lunch boxes (I prefer Bento or compartment boxes) on Pinterest. Take a peak and make a plan. Fruit + Veg + Protein + Grain = Healthy Noontime Eats!
But if you prefer to pull something together for lunch day of, do your research on balanced and good-for-you items off of the school menu for your kids, or local restaurants, cafes, and caterers for your workday. Planning it out together supports making better choices when the “hangries” come!
I think an easy battle to pick is prepping breakfast the night before. Heck you can put together several days’ worth of Mason jar yogurt parfaits or overnight oats. I whipped together this Raw Cherry Apple Pie Bowl that stores in the fridge for a week and is perfect for adding to plain Greek yogurt, chia pudding, or overnight oats.
Attack the Snacks
Snacks do not need to attack you! It’s time to get on the offense! My game plan is mostly simple, whole foods that I mix and match to create balanced mini-meals. My favorite: hard-boiled egg, clementine, almond butter pack, whole grain fig bar.
Then I commit to making one homemade staple snack each week and supplement with buying a few health driven packaged snacks to round out the grab-n-go. One of my new favorite homemade snacks is this Frozen Berry Espresso Bar. You can make up a big batch and store it in the freezer (for several weeks) for a refreshing and energizing pre-sports snack. It does contain a little caffeine, so it may not be for everyone in your crew. Or you can simply omit the regular coffee part and it still tastes great!
Get Dinner Done For You
I’m a big fan of modified meal prep. In my world that means cooking off several days’ worth of proteins and whole grains during the weekend, so I can mix and match with different sauces, seasonings, and veggies for quick dinners. When I cook off 6-12 chicken breasts (typically on Sunday nights), my family enjoys this Moroccan Spice Blend that combos great with beans, quinoa or rice.
But not every week do I have the time or motivation to do my own healthy meal prep. I found Origin Meals (www.originmeals.com), a local Minnesota company dedicated to clean, responsibly sourced ingredients that has been my saving grace. All of their menus are gluten and dairy free, which is ideal for my family that struggles with different food allergies and intolerances. The chef driven delicious flavors of the family dinner packs easily fills up the 4 big appetites of this house and we typically have 1-2 meals left over for next day’s lunch. All we need to do is heat is up. This is perfect after a long day of being “Ringmaster” to this circus I love so much!
It’s Back-to-School baby! Soar, don’t fall ☺