It happens the same each year, one moment, you’re enjoying the peak of summer fun and the next it’s time to start gearing up for the back to the school routine. Seasons of transition are always tricky, but nothing’s as hard as going from summer’s spontaneous style to fall’s more frenzied pace. Bedtimes are all over the place, meal prep went out the window in June, and no one even remembers how to leave the house on time anymore – we sympathize with your plight!

So, wondering how you can work smarter, not harder, this school year? While we fully admit that no one’s perfect, here are our top tips for implementing a healthier food routine!

Find Your Meal-Planning Style.
Whether you prefer a handwritten calendar, a Dry-Erase Board, a phone app, or a Google Doc, do something to create a guideline for the week. Coming up with daily meal ideas on the spot may be a talent some people possess, but even the most ingenious chef battles decision fatigue every so often. Take the pressure off; give yourself a weekly guideline to shop and cook from, you and your kids will appreciate it! Also, reserve the right to swap out meals or change things when life dictates it – your meal plan should serve your needs, not the other way around.

Balance Healthy Food and Play Food.
We know, it’s tempting to see your kid’s day-to-day nutrition and feel overwhelmed about all of the vitamins they’re lacking. Instead of putting this stress on yourself, try to adopt a long-range view of their diet. Some days your kids will be excited about eating a lot of play food, things like treats or salty snacks. Eventually, though, they’ll get tired of eating the same things and gravitate back to more nutrient-dense foods. Have options of both types of food available, and tell yourself to relax when they’re only craving cookies today, tomorrow they could be back to asking for apples and broccoli! After all, no one eats perfectly all of the time, give yourself and them some grace to enjoy a broad range of foods.

Get the Whole Family Involved.
Another great way to ease the transition into packing lunches and planning snacks is to get the entire family helping! Ask your kids or teens for some play and healthy foods that they like to have around, and have them go shopping with you. When you get home, store their lunch/snack food in separate bins or shelves, then empower your kids to serve themselves or pack parts of their lunches. It’s never too early to learn responsibility and teamwork skills; it may take a little extra time at first, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Stop the Comparison Game.
Our last word on healthy meal-planning, stop comparing yourself to other parents, or your kids to their classmates. We all have different strengths and weaknesses; someone else’s daughter might be the easier eater, but who knows, she may be way harder than your son when bedtime rolls around. However, if you do find yourself envying what works about someone else’s morning or daily dinner routine, then learn from their expertise. A rising tide lifts all boats; share your tips and tricks with other parents, and incorporate their brilliant ideas into your plans!

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