September 6, 2011

Easing Back To School Stress!

Did the summer ever go by fast!  It seems like I was sitting at Big-A's SK grad ceremony just yesterday and I'm now preparing him for Grade 1!  Along with the new backpack, school supplies and new fall clothes comes school snacks and lunches!  Last year I had it easy, only having to plan for snacks, one per day.  This year I will be challenged with preparing a nut-free, delicious and healthy lunch, along with 2 snacks per day.  I'm lucky to have this blog as an index of ideas and recipes.  But I won't stop there - I'll be testing out even more recipes, trying out different foods (some foods just don't travel well) and searching for the healthiest store bought items that I can find.

The key to getting through the chaos of back-to-school is to be prepared.  This means filling my fridge and pantry with foods that will be in Big-A's lunch bag week after week.  Here is a basic list that I will follow and I will add to it as I move along.

  • assortment of fresh fruit and vegetables including cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, bananas, apples, nectarines, grapes (think a 'rainbow' of colours)
  • plain greek-style yogurt (no added flavour, sugar, colouring, fillers) - add honey and fresh or frozen fruit
  • Maple Leaf Natural Selections ham and turkey slices
  • assortment of cheese including havarti/mozarella/white cheddar and Baby Bel
  • un-sweetened jams and apple butter (nut-free toppings for bagels)
  • hummus, plain or flavoured
  • homemade banana and blueberry muffins for a quick breakfast or pack for school snacktime
  • homemade banana bread mini loaves
  • homemade pancakes or waffles - simply pop in the toaster for an easy breakfast

Reference Canada's Food Guide to ensure that your little one is receiving the required nutrition to get them through the day.  You can order a free copy to hang in your pantry for easy use!

Keep lunches and snacks simple, and change them up through the week.  Keep your child's age in mind before preparing foods.  Air-popped popcorn is a fabulous school snack, but it is a choking hazard for young children.  Raw carrots are also a major choking hazard.  My post Snack - No Choke Carrot Sticks offers a solution for young children.  Yogurt is a great snack or lunch accompaniment, but it may be too messy for a 4-year old to eat at school.

I plan to sign Big-A up for the milk program at school.  Other than that, he will get a bottle of cold water in his backpack each day that he can refill if needed.  When choosing a water bottle for your little one, look for BPA-free and consider how easy it is to clean all of the parts.  You can read more about the importance of water, and some great water bottle brands in my post H2O Woes.

Although I plan to make most of Big-A's snacks and lunches from scratch, I know how busy weekday evenings are.  Working until 5pm, shovelling dinner down our throats, attempting a walk before bath time...we never stop!  If and when I chose to send him to school with store-bought items, I will make sure to read labels, research ingredients and make sure that the items are of the best quality and have a high nutritional value.

Last but not least, think of a creative way to let your child know that you're thinking of them while they're at school.  Small notes on Post-It's, heart-shaped sandwiches or even a Kinder® Surprise hidden in their backpack will put an instant smile on the face of any child.

Keep your pantry, refrigerator and fruit bowl full and make the school lunch crunch easier on everyone!

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