If you’re a parent, your children are probably in full swing getting back to their school routine. The structure of the school day can be helpful, since it can be a challenge at times to ensure your children are meeting their nutritional needs. The first rule is: don’t skip meals. Each mealtime is an opportunity to consume important nutrients. Below are three simple tips for each mealtime:

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal or ready-to-eat cereal is as simple as it gets. Using quick oats saves time, and still delivers nutrition. Make it with lowfat or nonfat milk. When choosing dry cereals, look for those that provide less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, and stick to one serving.
  • Whole grain toast spread with peanut butter, butter or margarine spread. Your spread choice is okay, just be sure the amount you use is appropriate (1-2 teaspoons—check labels!). Add eight ounces of nonfat or lowfat white or flavored milk for both calcium and protein.
  • Eggs—hardcooked, scrambled or small omelets—there are several ways to make them. Eggs provide good nutrition, including protein and antioxidants. Add one egg to a toasted English Muffin or make a grab-and-go breakfast wrap. You can add a slice of cheese, salsa or your favorite toppings.

Lunch

  • If your child is buying school lunch, be sure to encourage him or her to choose variety every day and choose a protein, fruit, vegetable and milk.
  • Packing? Use these simple guidelines: two grains, 2-3 ounces protein, one fruit and/or vegetable, eight ounces of lowfat or nonfat milk, and one small treat.
  • If your child has access to a microwave, send leftovers in a microwave-safe container. Bento boxes are widely available now, and kids enjoy foods organized into perfect sections! You can add raw veggies or a salad in one, sliced strawberries or yogurt in another, and a pinwheel wrap in one. To make a pinwheel wrap, spread a wrap lightly with whipped cream cheese, add sliced turkey, spinach leaves and roll up. Then cut into two-inch pieces.

Snack Time

  • Cookies and milk is still a welcoming treat. Portion control secret: two small cookies, eight ounces of milk.
  • Slice fresh fruit, such as bananas, apples or pears, and offer a caramel or cream cheese-based dip with them.
  • Cheese and crackers. Portion out 1-2 ounces of hard cheese, sliced, with 6-8 wheat crackers.

Dinner

  • When planning a meal, keep it simple: A protein, a vegetable and one starch. Add a glass of milk, and your child will enjoy a balanced meal.
  • On the go after work? Cook up a batch of soup on Sunday to eat with sandwiches during the week. Or toss some pasta with cooked chicken or shrimp, and add chopped peppers or broccoli right into it. Add a tossed salad. Finally, foil packets are a great go-to technique for quick and easy meals (and are yummy, too!).
  • If you are forced to eat out, try to limit fast food to just a couple times a month or less, and choose wisely. Often times, a simple go-to meal at home will be better for you, and easier on your budget as well.