With the school year quickly approaching, many parents are looking for healthy and quick meal and lunch box options. Luckily Nutrition Coach Cara Price, creator of The Nourished Body & Soul blog, has some helpful advice for successful school-year meal planning. And “planning” is the operative word.
“Plan, plan, plan,” Cara reiterates. “Planning ahead is like insurance on nutrition. When you have a plan, it is so much easier to implement good nutrition than when you don’t have a plan.”
After summer indulgences, many families are looking to clean up their meals. But Cara says eating healthier can feel indulgent, as well.
“My favorite way to make healthy eating exciting is to have a core group of recipes that I use on a rotating basis, but then to also have a fun Pinterest board with all the things I’d like to try,” she says. “That way, when you’re ready for something new, you already have an idea of some recipes to choose from. If you like to look at physical cookbooks, then sit down with a sticky notepad and start marking up which recipes you want to try next!”
When it comes to packing easy and nutritious lunches, Cara encourages parents to think outside the (lunch) box.
“To make school mornings easier, I always made a monthly calendar of what would go in lunchboxes for my kids. That way, packing for school lunch was easier,” she says.
Cara encourages parents to include their children in the process.
“Have kids help by getting things ready the night before that can be packed up ahead of time,” she says. “Letting kids have input on what goes into their lunches helps to be sure it gets eaten.”
Most importantly, Cara advises keeping it simple. “Remember that good nutrition is simple. Things don’t have to be fancy. A simple protein, fruit and veggie with a fun dip are enough to sustain nutritional needs for little ones.”
Cara’s blog The Nourished Body & Soul is a valuable resource for healthy and easy school season recipes. Most of her dishes are grain-free and all are gluten-free.
This month Cara offers some fun recipes that your family will want to include in its weekly rotation. And all make excellent lunch box additions, as well!
Trail Mix Granola
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup raw pecan halves
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup applesauce (no added sugar)
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/ 2 cup raisins
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
place the cashews, pecans & pumpkin seeds in a medium-size bowl. cover with warm water & soak for 2 hours.
· Preheat oven to 185.
· Remove the nuts from the water by pouring them into a fine colander. Give them a good shake to get as much water off as possible. (Just wipe the bowl from soaking the nuts dry because you will re-use the bowl in just a minute.)
· Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until the nuts resemble the size of oats. This only takes a few pulses.
· In the medium-size bowl mix together applesauce, maple syrup, coconut sugar, vanilla & salt. Then scoop the nut mixture out of the food processor into the bowl. Stir the nuts together with the applesauce mixture.
· Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour the nut mixture onto it, spreading it out into a thin layer.
· Bake 6 hours; then turn off the oven but leave the granola in the oven for 4 more hours.
· Break apart the granola and add the chocolate chips, raisins & marshmallows to the mix.
· Serve or store at room temperature for up to 14 days in a glass jar.
Crustless Pizza Egg Bites
6-8 ounces turkey pepperoni, chopped
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cup coconut milk, unsweet
1 tablespoon butter or ghee, melted & cooled
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Optional: ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
· Preheat the oven to 325.
· Whisk all the eggs together in a medium-size bowl.
· Add the coconut milk, melted butter, apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper and whisk again.
· Stir in the tomato and the chopped turkey pepperoni.
· Spray a muffin pan with spray oil or use paper muffin liners.
· Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, fill each muffin well.
· Bake 24-26 minutes or until the egg bites become firm in the middle. You can check these by sticking a toothpick or butter knife down into the middle of them to see if they are done.
· If using cheese, sprinkle on top of each pizza egg bite right when they come out of the oven.
· Once cooled, store in the fridge for up to seven days.
BBQ Ranch Meatballs
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
2 cups BBQ sauce, no sugar added
3 tablespoons water
· preheat oven to 425.
· In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, onion, coconut aminos, tomato paste, egg, salt & seasonings.
· Once the meat mixture is well mixed, add in the gluten-free flour and mix well again, making sure all the flour is mixed well into the meat mixture.
· Use a large spoon to scoop out equal amounts of meat and roll into tight balls.
· Spray a large 9x13 baking rimmed glass dish with cooking spray and place the meatballs in it.
· Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes. While the meatballs are baking, combine the 2 cups of BBQ with the water.
· Pour the sauce over the meatballs and then turn your oven to broil. Continue cooking meatballs with the sauce for another 2-3 minutes.
· Remove from the oven and serve.