Believe it or not, summer is officially over for thousands of school children in East Tennessee. For some kids, it’ll be the first time heading back to an actual classroom in more than a year, which means both kids and their parents have to get back in the swing of morning routines. The rush to get out the door can sometimes lead to breakfast and lunch choices that prioritize quickness over healthiness. However, with a little forethought and prep time on the front end, quickness and healthiness don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce says breakfasts can be trickier than lunches, simply due to the morning rush. “Once school is back in session, mornings get busier for both parents and children. The sheer lack of time can derail your healthy breakfast routine,” Pierce said. “Still, kids who eat a healthy breakfast have been shown to have improved cognitive skills, better behavior and higher test scores, so the importance of a healthy breakfast can’t be understated. If the biggest factor working against eating a healthy breakfast – whether you’re a parent or a kid – is time, there are some quick approaches you can try that still are healthy. The key is planning ahead,” she said.
“Oatmeal, for instance, is a quick and healthy meal you actually can prepare ahead of time,” Pierce said. “I call them ‘overnight oats,’ and you can make them by combining old-fashioned oats with a bit of milk, some Greek yogurt – which is higher in protein than regular yogurt – and a small amount of chia seeds. All you have to do is mix those together, add some honey or maple syrup, throw in some fruit, and stir. It’s very easy, and it can refrigerate overnight,” she explained. “Greek yogurt with walnuts, berries and chopped apples works well, too. If your kids enjoy boiled eggs, you can pair a piece of fruit with them for another super-quick option. Frozen breakfast sandwiches, too, are a healthy choice, especially when you make them yourself, as opposed to buying the pre-packaged ones available. Simply take an English muffin or tortilla, a scrambled egg, and a bit of ham or turkey sausage, then prepare your sandwich and pack it in an airtight container until you’re ready to reheat it,” she said. “All you have to do in the morning is reheat them in the microwave a bit and you’re good to go,” she added.
Packing lunches for school also requires some forethought. Blount Memorial registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Whitney Roberts says there are three key elements to packing healthy school lunches. “Just like those on-the-go breakfasts, school lunches require some planning,” Roberts said. “What you’ll want to do is try to shop with a list that helps you plan lunches for an entire school week. Second, remember to keep it simple by planning for a healthy carbohydrate, a lean protein and a fruit or vegetable. This will help you avoid less-healthy options such as chips, sodas, Lunchables and pre-packaged sweets. Third, try to pack the lunches the night before or for the whole week. Using a sectioned food container and ice packs can make this much easier,” she explained.
“When you’re looking for healthy carbohydrates, look for whole-wheat breads, wheat tortillas or whole-wheat crackers,” Roberts said. “Lean lunch meat, cheese, peanut butter or Greek yogurt can take care of the protein you’re looking for, and you can be creative with the fruits and vegetables. And for beverages, it’s best to stick with water or milk,” she added.