Back to School Kitchen Reboot

Parents and kids across the country are getting ready to welcome a new school year. While it is always sad to see summer go, the new school year marks a new beginning—an opportunity to start fresh, reorganize and set goals. It is a great time to rethink your nutrition and implement small changes that can have a profound effect on your family’s future health and well-being.

Americans love to snack. The problem is that we are busier than ever and much of the prepackaged, readily available snack food is high fat, high calorie and low in nutrition. Snacking on junk food is a habit that is easier to break than you may think. The following three steps will help you stock up with snack food that is super healthy and easily accessible for families on the go.

The first step is to clean out your pantry or food cabinet. I don’t mean that you need to get rid of all of the treats, rather throw away those stale potato chips that won’t get eaten anyway, the cookies no one liked, loose candy that is taking up space, the expired crackers leftover from a party…Designate a section as the snack area.

Now that you have room, it’s time to fill it for you and your kids. Examples of great snack items are dried fruit, trail mix, fruit leather, apple chips, applesauce, pretzels, roasted nuts and popcorn. You may want to stock small bars such as Lara bars, Z bars or high fiber granola bars. It is best to either buy pre-portioned items or portion them yourself in small reusable containers. This prevents mindless snacking because it is easy to eat more than you want and need when you have a giant box in front of you.

Next move on to the fridge. I know mine could use a good clean out every couple of weeks and it is definitely not one of my favorite tasks. Once you clean it out, pick an area for grab-and-go snacks. The most obvious fast food is fruit. Fill up a shelf with colorful beautiful fruit. Vegetables like carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and celery with dips like hummus are great too. Let your family help pick out the foods for the snack shelf. It really helps with acceptance.

Hopefully your freezer won’t need a clean out, but if it does, now is a great time. Things get lost in my freezer. The goal is to clear another shelf where you can add frozen goodies. Frozen fruit is one of my favorites. We like frozen grapes, pineapple, blueberries and watermelon chunks. I buy a large watermelon and either cut it or use a melon baller. Then separate portions into lunch size bags plastic containers since they can stick together when they freeze. Another option is homemade or store-bought 100% fruit juice pops. This is also a great place to freeze items like mini bran muffins or mini bean burritos that you can pop in the microwave. Resist the temptation to buy high fat processed frozen foods like pizza or wings. Keep this space healthy and light.

While it will take some work up front, having high quality, nutritious food waiting for you will save time and help establish good snacking habits. Hopefully, you are motivated for a September reboot. I know I am!