Time-saving strategies to beat the back-to-school rush

Embrace the back to school season by jumpstarting your healthy eating goals. Take the stress out of meals by getting organized and mapping out what you're going to eat. From school lunches to weeknight dinners, use these smart strategies to save time and make better food choices.

Save time with healthy convenience foods

Feeling overwhelmed by all the choices at the grocery store? From the outer perimeter to the inner aisles, fill your cart with healthier foods that are lower in fat, sodium or sugar.

Use the % Daily Value (% DV) to compare food products and see if the food has a little or a lot of a nutrient. Remember: 5% DV or less is a little and 15% DV or more is a lot.

Want to eat better but are short on time? Grab these fast but healthy food options to make healthy eating a snap.

  • Cut down on prep time with ready-to-use fresh vegetables: bagged salad greens, baby spinach, pre-cut squash cubes, stir-fry mix, sliced mushrooms and pepper slices.
  • Have pre-cut fruit on hand for a quick snack. Try peeled and cored pineapple and melon cubes.
  • Get frozen, as in plain frozen fruits and vegetables. The washing and chopping is done for you. Just open up a bag and use what you need and save the rest for later, which means little waste. Try frozen kale, peas and carrots, beans, cauliflower and broccoli. Perfect for simmering up some vegetable soup.
  • Reach for no salt added canned lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans. These are great way to add fibre and protein to soups, salads and chili. If your canned legumes contain salt, drain and rinse them for two to three minutes under cold water before using.
  • Buy tomato-based jarred pasta sauce. Using the % DV, choose a brand that has the lowest amount of sodium.
  • Go for whole wheat pizza dough. Load up your pizza with lots of veggie toppings. Making your own pizza is a fun family activity.
  • Lower sodium canned tuna and salmon are great way to enjoy fish twice a week.

On the go weeknight dinners

With kids' sports and activities ramping up in the fall, dinner time can feel crunched. Your kids will gobble up these quick and tasty ideas for those times dinner takes place on the field, arena or en route to an activity. Use insulated containers to keep hot foods hot and ice packs to keep cold foods cold.

  • Breakfast for dinner - Spread all natural nut butter on whole grain pancakes or waffles; enjoy with a berry smoothie.
  • Lower fat cheese and veggie kabobs - Stack up cherry tomatoes, cucumbers slices, zucchini cubes, peppers and bocconcini cheese balls for a colourful kabob.
  • Fish tacos - Choose fish such as salmon and trout as part of your weekly meal plan. Wrap up leftover cooked fish with cabbage and carrot slaw. Add a squeeze of lime for a burst of flavour.
  • Hearty chili - Buy lean and extra lean ground meats such as beef, chicken and turkey to make a vegetable and kidney bean packed chili.
  • Mac 'n cheese with butternut squash - Take advantage of the fall harvest by adding small butternut squash cubes to your favourite macaroni and cheese recipe.
  • Mini pizzas - Make simple personal pizzas on whole grain English muffins.
  • Mediterranean picnic - Pack up whole grain mini pitas, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, olives, and a healthier dip (hummus, guacamole, yogurt or bean-based).
  • Quesadilla pockets - Mash up no-salt added black beans, fresh salsa and a little bit of shredded cheese. Spread mixture onto half a whole grain tortilla. Fold into a pocket. Heat until cheese is melted. Enjoy with a pear.
  • Soup to go - Heat up no salt added broth, add baby spinach, chickpeas and cheese tortellini.
  • Super stir fry - Cook up pepper strips, bok choy, shrimp and tofu with garlic, ginger and low sodium soy sauce. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.
  • Time saving wraps - Use small whole grain tortillas to create egg salad or chicken wraps.

Weekend food fun

While your week may be fast paced, work in some down time during the weekend. Plan a family field trip to an apple orchard or farmer`s market to help make a connection to where food comes from. Pick out a new fruit or vegetable, and then find a recipe to make together. Connecting with your family over food is a powerful way to bond and foster valuable life skills.

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