This post is in partnership with GIANT Food Stores. The opinions in this post are 100% mine. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
It’s back to school season! My kids are going back SO LATE this year, not until after Labor Day. I’m really dying to get our routine back. This late-summer mom I’ve become isn’t one I’m real proud of, friends. Thankfully, the start of a new school year is my reset button on bedtimes, routine, healthy meals, and generally getting my act together. I’m READY.
Last month my family met with a GIANT Food Store nutritionist and it was really eye-opening. She offered some practical tips for summertime, like how to cope with the non-stop cries of, “Mooooom, I’m hungry!” and what snack options are best to avoid head off that incessant run to the pantry. Her tips actually work for us and we’ve continued to use them.
Now GIANT nutritionists have put together some tips for getting back to school, back to some healthy balance, and just in time for my much-needed reset! Here are their top 3 suggestions below, plus how I’m incorporating them into our family life as we kick off a new school year.
Make Time to Plan
If you do nothing else, do this: make time to plan your meals and get the food you need in the house. There is nothing worse than having those 3 hours between the end of the school day and when you need to leave for soccer practice to try to figure out what to feed the kids for dinner.
- Set a day/time every week for time-saving meal planning: Plan out all meals for the week before you go grocery shopping, take stock of what items you already have on hand and make a list of what you need. GIANT/MARTIN’S Savory, Fast, Fresh and Easy magazine and digital platform is introducing Savory Sunday on Aug. 21– easy meal ideas you can prepare in one day and enjoy the rest of the
- Start every day with a balanced breakfast: Help curb hunger later in the day with a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana, a hardboiled egg with a piece of fruit, an English muffin with almond butter and sliced peaches or overnight oats.
- Prep lunch ahead: For simple lunchtime salads, wash and cut veggies in bulk ahead of time or buy salad kits for easy assembly and save lean protein from dinners to top your salad.
What I’m Doing
- Meal planning, which I fully admit is really not my favorite thing to do, makes the biggest difference for me. Knowing what I’m making for dinner and actually having the food in the house brings a calm like no other. Sunday mornings we are all usually home and have a leisurely breakfast together, so while we’re eating I grab a notepad and pen and start planning dinners and make a corresponding grocery list.
- I start with the dinner planning, but once that’s done we add some other items to the list: breakfast foods, things to pack for lunch, and snacks. Sometimes lunch planning means making extra dinner. If we’re grilling chicken, I’ll have my husband make a couple of extra pieces and there’s my lunch for the week.
- GIANT Food Stores puts out Savory magazine every month and I LOVE it. It’s jam packed with coupons but my favorite part is the recipe ideas. I get a lot of foodie magazines, but this one includes all really practical, family-friendly recipes. I’ve made a bunch of them and they’re easy, fast, and the kids love them. Definitely use Savory as a resource to get out of the same-old, same-old dinner routine.
Food Groups In Meals and Snacks
The biggest tip we learned from the GIANT nutritionist we met with last month is to add protein to every meal and snack. It satisfies you longer so you’re not constantly hungry and reaching for something else.
- Power up breakfast with protein: Eggs, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, or cheese are all good choices.
- Create a bento box: When packing lunches, use a bento lunch box. A bento box contains multiple compartments and will help you include as many food groups as possible. Put grapes in one section, sliced cucumber and a spoonful of hummus in the second section, turkey and cheese roll ups in the third section and whole grain crackers in the fourth – creating a balanced, satisfying lunch.
- Have fun and create a snack station: Clear a pantry shelf and fill with healthy snacks like low-sugar granola bars, cereal, dried fruit, nuts/seeds, dry roasted chickpeas, popcorn and whole grain crackers. Keep fruits, veggies, yogurt and string cheese on hand in the fridge too for kids to easily grab when hunger strikes.
What I’m Doing
- Once again, the important part is the have the items you need on hand, so I’m adding snack items to the grocery list and when we get them home, I make them easily accessible to the kids.
- Another REALLY helpful tip from the nutritionist: Shake up what you think a meal should look like. I have always thought of a balanced meal to be a meat, starch, and veggie. But meals, particularly lunches, can be much more creative than that. We do a lot of what I termed ‘snacky meal’, which is a cutting board full of a variety of options: smoked salmon, a sliced baguette, olives, sliced bell peppers, grapes, and cheese. They love it, I can have it ready in 10 minutes, and the clean up is a breeze.
- Along those same lines of shaking up what I think a meal should look like, I have to point out these ‘toastwiches’ (I do come up with some good names, don’t I?) that I made, inspired by recipes in Savory magazine. We had this for lunch this week, but you could honestly do this for breakfast (the peaches), dinner, or a snack. They had some meat in theirs but I went vegetarian. An open-faced BLT would be so fast and easy for dinner!
Fight the Freshman 15
I don’t have a college freshman (though I remember those days myself and the freshman 15 is a real thing!). If you are a college student, or have one, these tips might be helpful. For me, I am using them as motivation to get back on track. We’ve had a looooooot of ice cream this summer, and I really want to change the whole family’s habits as we enter a new school year.
- Plan meals around lean protein: Some inexpensive choices are eggs, beans, natural peanut or sunflower seed butter, cheese or tuna. Also include vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and dairy.
- Make a snack: If you don’t have time for a meal break in between classes, grab an apple and cheese stick, tuna on cucumber slices, natural peanut butter on celery, hummus and baby carrots, or a nutrition bar.
- Get a good night’s sleep: Adequate sleep, for most seven to nine hours per night, recharges your brain, might reduce your stress, improve your concentration, and even keep your weight in check.
What I’m Doing
- Let’s all cheer for the return of bedtime! I know getting a full night’s sleep is key to all aspects of our health (and positive attitudes – don’t talk to me when I haven’t slept).
- Having filling snack options is key so that we’re not all constantly reaching for more and more food. And there are some really nice options available at the grocery store, ready-made. These Balanced Breaks are one of our favorites.
- We use this snack formula which seems to actually keep everyone satisfied until the next mealtime:
- fruit/veggie/or grain + protein/or healthy fat
I know so many of you are ready for this new school year, a fresh start, and some healthier habits (because summer is fun but I wasn’t the only one eating a lot of ice cream, was I?). Hope these tips are helpful to you!
Visit the GIANT Food Stores website to access lots of Savory recipes, and be sure you pick up Savory magazine in your local store. You can find it either in the vestibule at the entrance, or at customer service. GIANT has more health and wellness tips (that are practical!), too.
The generous folks at GIANT Food Stores are offering one of my readers a $25 GIANT gift card to help you start the school year on the right foot! This giveaway is open to US residents only (please make sure you live near enough to a GIANT that you can use the prize), ages 18+, and will end at 11:59pm on September 5, 2017.