Back to School: Meal prep for success
Nutritionists at UW Health share advice on how you can make healthy meals in less time to give your kids energy throughout the school day.
"Great nutrition and balanced meals are really are important to help kids during school pay attention stay focused,” UW Health Nutritionist Liz Reynolds said.
UW Health has resources online to help guide meal prepping and portioning. You can find some of those resources
you can find a link to the United States Department of Agriculture’s “MyPlate” portion and food group recommendations.
Reynolds said a good day of learning starts with a balanced breakfast.
"Thinking about breakfast, I like to keep it simple. Think about that protein fruits and vegetables and the whole grain," Reynolds said.
Lisa Bote, the head of catering at UW Health recommends microwaveable oatmeal in a mug.
"If you want to cut some time out of your mornings, which are always rushed, I have kids at home, there's never enough time to get breakfast together, you could prep five cups at the beginning of the week and just use them as you need to,” Bote said.
She puts one part dry oatmeal in to a mug with two parts milk or water. She microwaves it for two minutes and stirs. She tops the oatmeal with healthy toppings like nuts, yogurt and fruit.
"Topping it with extra nuts is also going to add that protein, adding that extra fruit on top, adding that extra fiber that's going to keep you fuller longer as well,” Reynolds said.
Next is lunch. Reynolds recommends packing a lean protein for lunch.
"We have sandwiches here that are really balanced. We use whole grain bread so lots of extra fiber that's going to help your kids feel fuller longer throughout the day,” Reynolds said.
UW Health’s head chef, Ellen Ritter recommends staying away from processed foods especially processed meats, sugars and carbohydrates.
"We have good protein, good carbohydrates, good whole foods, try to use minimally processed foods as much as possible,” Ritter said. “You're trying to get deli meat that's clean and that doesn't have a lot of additives.”
She said you also want to make sure hot foods stay hot and cold foods stay cold if your child packs a lunch with them. She recommends an insulated lunch box and a fitted ice pack if available.
Next, Reynolds recommends keeping healthy snacks on hand to prevent a nutrition crash.
"Snacks are really important especially if your meals are going to be four or more hours apart,” Reynolds said. "A great rule of thumb for snacks is to think about adding in that fruit or vegetable and pair it with a protein."
Reynolds and Ritter recommend pairing fruits and vegetables with lean proteins like hummus or sunflower seed butter.
"If you have all of your ingredients out you know do two or three and have them ready for the week,” Ritter said.
They all agree that planning meals and snacks ahead of time can cut down on the stress of feeding your kids but also reduces the chance that you’ll reach for a highly processed food as a substitute to fresh meals.
For more information on UW Health’s nutritional guidelines and resources click