On The Table

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Health Tips & Meal Ideas While Homeschooling

As you wear many new hats this school year, we are here to help you stay healthy homeschooling with these tips and recipes!

Health Tips & Meal Ideas While Homeschooling

With many schools going virtually back-to-school this year, guardians are stepping up to the plate and wearing many teacher hats. These include making lesson plans for English language arts, math, amongst the many school activities.

But beyond academics, distance learning also means distance meals outside of the school cafeteria and at home. (Hello, chef hat!)

We are eagerly here to help take one less stress off the plate this year. Knock it out of the park and stay healthy homeschooling with these tips and recipes!

Eating Well at Home

Eating meals at home is an opportunity to instill lifelong healthy eating habits, which can lead to a myriad of health benefits such as:

• Enhancing problem-solving skills.
• Improving academics.
• Producing healthier eating patterns.
• Reducing today's childhood obesity rates and the health concerns that can and often follow.

Ensuring such impactful benefits can be achieved with simple strategies, including practicing meal prep and stocking the home with healthy ingredients.

Meal Prep

Busy school days turn into busy school nights and the next thing you know, another day of school is here.

To ease those busy weeks of school, meal prep for kids considering the following steps:

1. Take food requests: Take special food requests of what the kiddos might want to eat, while also staying true to good health choices.

2. Create a grocery list: Create a list for a swift trip to the grocery store without a high temptation of adding unnecessary items to the cart.

3. Shop the store's perimeter: By shopping around the store's border, you are naturally more likely to choose produce, fresh lean meat, and whole grains instead of overly processed foods often stocked in the middle aisles.

4. Start meal prepping: Chop and assemble purchased goods to create those portioned or half-way prepared meals. Use sealed containers to keep food fresh once its ready to be put into use.

5. Organize and store meals: Have an organizational game plan, knowing which days you want each item and planning accordingly.

Stock with Healthy Ingredients

Keeping stocked with healthy ingredients helps alleviate the temptation of drive-thru runs or food deliveries when in a pinch.

As a general rule of thumb, stock with ingredients purchased around the store's perimeter as mentioned above. A more detailed breakdown of nutritious foods to keep on hand include:

• Complex carbs: beans, brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole grain products such as bread and pasta

• Dairy: skim or reduced-fat milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, string cheese

• Produce: varying fruits and vegetables such as bananas, bell peppers, berries, salad greens, tomatoes

• Protein: eggs, canned tuna, chicken, deli-sliced meat, lean beef, shrimp, tofu

• Other pantry items: air-popped popcorn, beef jerky, peanut butter, protein bars, trail mix

With these ingredients on hand, get inspired with these delicious recipes perfect for homeschooling high school, kindergarten, picky eaters, busy nights... Well, you get the idea!

5 Recipes Perfect for Homeschool

From a healthy breakfast made in minutes to a childhood classic the entire family will love, get meal-inspired with these 5 recipes.

1. Overnight Oats

Meal prepping overnight oats can ease busy mornings whilst supplying nutrients such as dietary fiber, plant-based fiber, and iron. The combo of nutrients is sure to get physical and mental energy going in full-force!

Overnight oats are also completely versatile and can be flavored to everyone's flavor preference. Some delicious and nutritious add-ins include berries, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and mini chocolate chips.

2. 30-Minute Turkey Chili

Chili is the perfect meal to make in a pinch, as it is prepared with common ingredients and quickly like our turkey chili recipe.

The recipe is also packed with protein, fiber, and other nutrients while being versatile to customize dietary preferences and needs.

Wanting a vegetarian option? Omit the meat and add another can of beans. Hoping to sneak in some veggies? Puree into the tomato sauce or bulk the recipe with chopped veggies of choice.

Regardless, there is nothing better than cozying up to a warm bowl of chili with loved ones!

3. Tailor-Made Tacos

Tacos are simple to prepare and everyone can assemble theirs just the way they like! Prepare the taco meat in advance or quickly on a busy night with these simple steps:

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, break apart and brown 1 pound ground beef until cooked through. Drain any excess grease and add back to the pan.

2. Add a packet of taco seasoning, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, and 1/4 cup water or beef broth (for a richer flavor) to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until sauce has reduced and thickened.

3. Serve with preferred tortillas and favorite taco toppings, including lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, jalapeños, lettuce, roasted corn, salsa, and shredded cheese.

If looking for a plant-based option, give these quick vegetarian cauliflower tacos a try!

4. King Ranch Chicken Mac & Cheese

Mac and cheese is one childhood favorite even loved as a grown adult. However, the classic can fall short of nutrients such as protein and fiber.

Our King Ranch chicken recipe is essentially a mac and cheese with a nutritious twist the entire family is sure to enjoy.

(Oh, and it takes 25 minutes to prepare from start to finish!)

5. Mini English Muffin Pizzas

As tempting as calling in for pizza is on a time crunch, those prepared and served to take carryout tend to be laden in fat and calories.

By making mini English muffin pizzas, you have the ultimate ingredient control to accommodate pizza preferences and overall nutrition. And not to mention, the pizzas will be prepared and enjoyed by the time any carryout would even make it to your dining table!

These mini pizzas would also be great for an "open house" night to "meet the teacher" and kickstart a new year of school!

Here's what you need:

• 1 package whole wheat English muffins
• 1, 14-oz jar pizza sauce
• 1, 12-oz bag shredded mozzarella cheese
• Topping ideas: turkey pepperoni, hamburger meat, sausage, mushrooms, black olives, banana peppers, bell peppers

After gathering the ingredients, use these simple steps for pizzas made in a matter of minutes:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice each English muffin in half and place on a baking sheet.

2. Spoon pizza sauce onto each English muffin and top with desired toppings and cheese.

3. Bake in the oven for about 7 to 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

4. Serve with a side salad or other veggie.

With all recipes, try to get kids involved in the meal preparation process. This may include creating a grocery list, gathering ingredients, or reading the recipe aloud.

Bonus Tips to Stay Healthy Homeschooling

Back-to-school nutrition is just as important in the classroom as it is at home, but health goes beyond a balanced diet.

Boost cognition, growth, and overall health by encouraging physical activity and ensuring adequate sleep.

Encourage Physical Activity

Physical activity is vital for health during all ages, including in childhood. Encourage your child to be physically active by:

• Getting active together as a family, including by walking the dog, riding bikes, and creating a scavenger hunt.

• Guiding their interests. Allow them to choose activities they enjoy such as structured sports. But also encourage them to explore other activities, including gymnastics and yoga.

• Encouraging new tasks and activities. Always be encouraging when your child tries new things, as doing so instills self-confidence.

Ensure Adequate Sleep

Regular activity is an essential part of childhood health, but the importance of adequate sleep should not be slept on. Quality sleep is critical for improving memory, cognition, and creativity.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends school-aged kids get 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night while advising:

• Teaching school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
• Staying consistent with sleep schedules and bedtime routines.
• Making the child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool, and quiet.
• Keeping TV and computers out of the bedroom.

Hats Off to You

All-in-all, be proud of all the tasks taken on and know you are doing a job well done! Take days as they come, learn with each chance, relish time with your in-home student, and allow time for yourself.

If desiring additional assistance with meal prep, bistroMD delivers straight to doorsteps nationwide. And as you wear many hats, customer service, registered dietitians, chefs, and a motivating community are all wearing their cheerleader hats!