Now that the lazy days of summer have come to an end, many of us turn our attention back to this little, yet a big thing in life called the “back-to-school” routine.
As the old saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short, so how do you get everyone smoothly back in a routine after a long summer?
Here are a few tips I’ve learned to ease the transition for the entire household. Planning a schedule, combined with some prep-work on the weekends can make back to school more manageable, and nightly dinners a lot more enjoyable for the entire family. Move over BACK-TO-SCHOOL STRESS, we’ve got you covered.
Early to bed, and soon to rise, that’s my mantra during the school year. Kids need on average 10 hours of sleep each night to thrive, and their brains require rest, so logging in the right amount of sleep will help your children concentrate, learn, and have plenty of energy to be physically active. I recommend at least two to three weeks before school begins to get the kids to bed a few minutes earlier each night. You might start with 5 or 10 minutes earlier and keep inching toward the desired bedtime. It’s also best to avoid any screen time – this includes cell phones for at least two to three hours before bed as this activity can be very stimulating. Creating daily habits before bed with a warm bath with delicate essential oils, a healthy snack, or perhaps some sharing or reading time with mom or dad will have your children ready to put on their pajamas and looking forward to bedtime.
As a nutritionist, I believe food – real food – is essential to get everything right. Fresh whole organic is the best. Most parents are busy with work, school, and evenings filled with sports, dance, and social activities. I’ve found preparing meals ahead of time or at least getting a lot of prep done on the weekend has become a mainstay in the lives of many successful families, including my own. Why, because it is hard to carve out time to cook nutritious food in the short amount of time between school and evening activities, and it is a real joy to come home and pull together a nourishing meal that takes a few minutes to get on the table because I’ve pre-planned. Trust me, it is possible to eat a healthy meal with advanced meal prep.
The art of planning meals and preparing food is a skill. Like all acquired skills, it takes practice! Shopping, chopping, cooking, baking, and properly storing food to reheat – so they taste excellent – takes some learning, but it’s worth every minute of investment.
Over the years, I have collected so many tips and tricks of meal prep that one day I looked at all the material and I decided to create a cookbook. My new cookbook This Kitchen Is for Dancing – Real Food, Pure Flavor, launched in spring of 2019. In my book, I dedicated an entire chapter to meal prepping, planning, and stocking a healthy kitchen. I will share a few tips in this article from my book on why meal prepping is a lifesaver and a significant component of your “back-to-routine” planning. (My book is available on Amazon, Chapters Indigo, and at natural health food stores across Canada.)
WHY MEAL PRPEP IS A MUST FOR BUSY FAMILIES
You’ll save money. While it may seem like common sense, you’ll be surprised at how preparing meals ahead of time will save you money. Many families stop at the store and pick up something for dinner on the way home and end up spending a lot more money, than if they had planned and shopped with a list.
You’ll save time. It might not feel like it at first, but investing a little time on the weekend will enable you to feed your family delicious food, and dinner time will run smoothly. You don’t have to make as many decisions after school. Soon you’ll come to recognize that meal prepping is the best way to spend more quality time with your family.
You’ll waste less food. With your meals planned out, you’ll know what you’re making and how much you need, so you will only buy the ingredients and amounts you require. Sticking to a weekly menu also means that you’ll stock your pantry with healthy food, helping you and your family eat better, feel better, and maintain a healthy weight.
You’ll become more efficient. Trust me, it’s true! While it may not feel like it at first, you’ll thank yourself for putting in a little elbow grease in on the weekend to prepare for the week ahead. It’s so easy and satisfying to quickly warm up a nutritious meal, allowing you time to sit down with the kids, breathe, and enjoy a relaxing dinner, before homework and bedtime. Plus, you will live with less stress and enjoy your family and dinner time more.
WHEN TO SAY NO!
One of the biggest lessons that I have learned is to say “no.” I took a long time to say no to too many invites, or other commitments during the week and on the weekends.
I work hard to keep our Sundays a “free” day for spontaneous family outings, cuddle time, or just a day of being together at home. You will never regret taking a moment to be present and watch your children grow up or spending time as a family. Those moments are the real memories you and your children will remember – carpet picnics and watching movies as a family. Looking back at my childhood I don’t remember every toy my parents bought me, but I do remember all of the special moments I spent with my parents.
Creating a routine and taking time to prep and plan meals will give you more time for self-care during the week and will create a relaxing family experience. Soon you’ll discover the joys of all that extra time.
As much as I advocate for the benefits of eating real food, I’m nonetheless a big believer in dietary supplements for both children and adults. I recommend a multivitamin taken daily, along with a few other of what I like to call “foundation products”. In our household, we add probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids to round out our health regimen. After trying many multivitamins, my children have named Big Friends® their favourite chewable. Big Friends developed an entire product line for children which, in addition to the multivitamins, includes vitamin D3 in both liquid and chewable form, and a powdered probiotic. For omega-3 fatty acid supplements, the Sea-licious® brand is special, because I founded the company and I developed it with healthy families in mind! Sea-licious and Big Friends bear the ISURA® seal of quality that you should always look for when choosing supplements. You can count on these products, as I and many others do, for their safety and effectiveness.