Back-to-School: Meal Planning and Make-Ahead Recipes

As the back-to-school season approaches, the need for quick, nutritious, and delicious meals may become more essential than ever. Balancing a busy schedule with the desire to provide healthy meals for yourself and your family might seem challenging, but with some thoughtful planning and creative recipes, you can breeze through weeknight dinners and pack wholesome lunches. In this blog post, we will share and delve into effective meal planning strategies and provide you with a collection of nutritious lunch recipes to make your weekdays smoother and your meals more enjoyable.

Meal Planning Strategies:
Create a Weekly Menu: Begin by sketching out a weekly menu that includes dinner ideas for each night. Factor in your family’s preferences, dietary restrictions, and the time you have available to cook.
Batch Cooking: Dedicate some time over the weekend to batch cook staple ingredients like rice, quinoa, roasted vegetables, and proteins. These components can be used as the base for various meals throughout the week.
Prep Ahead: Wash, chop, and portion out ingredients in advance. Store them in airtight containers in the fridge to save precious time during the busy weekdays.
Freezer-Friendly Meals: Prepare larger batches of soups, stews, and casseroles that can be frozen in individual portions. These can serve as convenient weeknight options when time is tight.

Here are some great recipes to make ahead and freeze:
Kale Chickpea Barley Soup
Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
Salmon Patties
Black Bean Patties
Easy Stroganoff

Healthy Lunch Recipe Ideas:

1. Mason Jar Salad: Layer your favorite salad ingredients in a mason jar for a vibrant and satisfying lunch. Start with the dressing at the bottom, followed by sturdier ingredients like cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers. Add proteins like grilled chicken, chickpeas, or tofu, and top with leafy greens. When it’s time to eat, shake the jar to mix everything together.

2. Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Bowl: Combine cooked quinoa with a variety of roasted vegetables such as sweet potatoes, broccoli, and zucchini. Did you know quinoa is packed with nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc? Add in some sautéed spinach or kale for even more added nutritional value. Top with a sprinkle of feta cheese or chopped nuts for a delightful crunch.

3. Wraps with a Twist: Opt for whole wheat wraps or collard green wraps as a healthier alternative to regular tortillas. Fill them with lean proteins like turkey, chicken, or hummus, along with plenty of colorful veggies. Roll them up tightly and slice into bite-sized pieces for a fun and easy-to-eat lunch.

4. Protein-Packed Bento Box: Create a bento box filled with an assortment of goodies. Include slices of grilled chicken or tofu, a variety of fresh fruits, a small portion of nuts or seeds, whole grain crackers, and a handful of baby carrots. This balanced assortment ensures you’re getting a bit of everything and is very kid-friendly!

Back to school and work weeknights don’t have to be stressful when it comes to meal planning. With a little bit of forethought and creativity, you can put together nourishing and tasty meals that will keep you energized throughout your busy days without breaking the bank! Remember to prioritize your health by making mindful choices and enjoying the process of preparing and savoring each meal.

Happy cooking!

By Claire McLaughlin and Morgan Gregg, MS

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