When the chaos of back to school season hits, it can be difficult to find the time or inspiration to prepare healthy meals at home. Instead, processed and packaged foods can seem easier to rely on when you’re trying to keep up with a
Unfortunately, most processed and packaged foods contain zilch for nutrition, which means they offer you no value in terms of energy and immune system support. And while one fast food meal can seem innocent enough (especially when you’re pressed for time), convenience foods are loaded with ingredients that leave you feeling sluggish and bloated by the end of the day.
Luckily, there are many ways to avoid feeling lethargic this fall without spending hours of time in the kitchen. Whether you’re cooking for yourself or your whole family, these time saving quick and healthy meal ideas are sure to delight the entire household.
Now, I’ll let you know my top secrets for preparing quick and healthy meals in just a moment. But first, let's take a look at the most important nutrients you need in your diet while you adjust to a new routine in the fall.
Essential Nutrients for Back to School Season
Protein is the primary macronutrient your body depends on for blood sugar balance. When your blood sugar levels are balanced, you have steady energy that lasts throughout the day.
Balancing your blood sugar levels can also prevent cravings for sweets, which typically occur when your energy levels get too low.
Protein also plays a crucial role in immune system support because it’s comprised of several essential amino acids that help regulate your body’s immune system response. With a change in the weather, hectic schedules and perhaps a few
Therefore, eating a good source of protein at every meal can help build up your immune system, and prevent you from starting the season off with a stuffy nose, or a cough and cold. The best sources of protein to add to your back-to-school meals include lean protein such as organic chicken and turkey, free-range eggs and wild fish. You can also find protein in
They taste great when blended with fresh or frozen fruit and unsweetened nut milk.
You can find plant protein powders at your local health food store. Chlorella, the amazing green
There are several other benefits of chlorella tablets, such as the nutrient Chlorella Growth Factor, or
You can easily add chlorella to your diet each day by taking Sun Chlorella® tablets, or by mixing Sun Chlorella® powder into your favorite green smoothies and juices.
It’s only natural to feel a little foggy after being in vacation mode all summer. Luckily, healthy fats can make the transition to a back to school (or work) routine easier because they promote healthy cognitive function.
Healthy fats are omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, which are found in foods such as wild salmon, walnuts, olive oil, avocado, hemp hearts, egg yolks and chia seeds.
These fatty acids are called essential because our bodies can't produce them, so we must obtain them from dietary sources. Since healthy fats are slow to digest, they can also help keep your appetite satiated for longer periods of time. In other words, healthy fats are a must-have nutrient in your diet for brain power and sustenance.
Carbs are thought to be the enemy. But the truth is, our bodies depend on carbs for energy and brain function - you just have to make sure you're eating the right ones.
Luckily, with fall comes an abundance of healthy, seasonal complex carbs you can feast on to feel energized.
Examples: Squash, sweet potato, pumpkin, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains,
The Difference Between Complex Carbs and Processed Carbs
Now, one of the reasons complex carbs have a different impact on your body than processed carbs (white flour and white sugar) is because they’re rich in fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that helps slow down the release of glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream, to provide your body with steady, slow releasing energy. But processed carbohydrates contain very little fiber, as most of it is removed during the refining process. And without fiber, sugar is released very rapidly into your bloodstream. Processed carbs
As mentioned above, processed carbs also don’t offer much value in terms of nutrition. Without fiber, vitamins and minerals, are simply a source of empty calories that could damage your health.
Vitamins and Minerals
Lastly, antioxidant vitamins and minerals are the macronutrients your body needs to perform nearly every function. For example, B vitamins help your body convert food into energy, while selenium offers immune system support. When your body is lacking an essential vitamin or mineral, you’re prone to feeling foggy, having difficulty concentrating and being tired despite having an adequate amount of sleep each night.
As you already know, the whole foods found in nature are the best sources of vitamins and minerals - especially seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. By including an extra vegetable at every meal and snacking on fruit throughout the day, you’ll help provide your body with the variety of nutrients it needs for optimal health.
Now that you know exactly which nutrients to include in your lunch box this fall, let’s take a look at the easiest ways to incorporate them in your diet with these 7 quick and healthy meal ideas.
1. Quinoa Bowls
Quinoa is an excellent source of 8 essential amino acids. While many consider it a grain, it’s closely related to the spinach family and is actually more of a seed.
The light, fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavor of quinoa make it a versatile ingredient for both sweet and savory
The best part about quinoa is that it’s hassle-free to make, lasts for up to 5 days in the fridge and can be cooked on the stove in twenty minutes, so you can unwind with your favorite book or help the kids with their homework. Now that’s our type of quick, healthy meal!
Pro Tip: Whipping up a batch of quinoa for the week ahead can be a lifesaver when
2. Healthy Banana Pancakes (You Can Freeze Them, Too)
Who can resist banana pancakes? They’re quick and hassle-free to make, delicious, rich in vitamins and minerals, and freeze well! A win-win for back to school meal prep.
You can make banana pancake batter simply by mashing one banana with two eggs (which yields roughly 7 small pancakes). But there are several other healthy banana pancake recipes online that you can customize to suit your
Pro Tip: Why not make a few batches of banana pancakes at once to save time? You can store them in the fridge or freezer and warm them in the toaster when they’re ready to eat.
3. Mason Jar Salads
There are endless fun flavor combinations you can create with mason jar salads, and it only takes a few minutes to pull together this quick, healthy meal.
To make a mason jar salad, all you need is a glass mason jar and your favorite vegetables, protein, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Storing your salads in a glass mason jar also helps keep ingredients fresh for longer, which means you can make a few mason jar salads at the same time.
The best way to make a mason jar salad is to put wet ingredients at the bottom (such as dressing, tomatoes or fruit) and leafy greens at the top. In between, you can add layers of your favorite veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, and protein.
You can get creative with flavor combinations by using different dressings,
4. Mini Frittatas
Making mini frittatas is quick and easy. Simply grease a muffin tin with coconut oil or butter, and preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk a dozen whole eggs with 1 cup of coconut milk, and your favorite veggies and herbs. Distribute the mixture evenly into the muffin tin and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked.
Like mason jar salads, mini frittatas never get boring because you can try new flavor combinations each week. Mini frittatas can be stored in a glass container and stay fresh for up to 3 days.
Overnight oats are the dream breakfast for anyone who wants to wake up to a delicious, nutritious meal without so much as pulling out a frying pan. That's right! Overnight oats require absolutely no cooking, can be thrown together in less than a minute and are ready for you to eat the moment you wake up.
To make overnight oats, all you need is rolled oats (not quick or instant oats), your favorite unsweetened nut milk and toppings, such as banana, nut butter, walnuts, berries, shredded coconut, and a natural sweetener such as coconut nectar or pure maple syrup.
Combine all ingredients except the nut milk in a glass container or mason jar. Then, top with enough nut milk to completely cover the ingredients. Cover with a lid and leave in the fridge overnight, or for up to 6 hours. This allows the oats to soak and soften, so they're ready to eat when you wake up in the morning.
While overnight oats require absolutely no cooking, it’s up to you if you’d like to eat them warmed up or cold (personally, I love them cold).
Avocado toast makes an ideal back to school breakfast because it’s full of fiber, healthy
You can add toppings and seasonings to your avocado toast such as
Pro Tip: You can also mash an avocado in a bowl with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and spread it on your toast, rather than using slices.
7. Rainbow Veggie Rice Paper Wraps
If you get bored of salads (or your little one is uninterested in vegetables), rainbow veggie rice paper wraps are an easy way to mix things up without missing out on your veggies.
All you need to make veggie rice paper wraps is white rice paper (which you can find in the ethnic section in any grocery store) and chopped or grated fresh veggies, such as carrots, beets,
Rice paper wraps look like thin sheets of paper, but once you dip them into a bowl of warm water, they turn into a flexible wrap that can be easily folded and stuffed with fresh vegetables. Rice paper wraps are an excellent alternative to flour
As you can see, these are just a few quick and healthy meal ideas that take little time to prepare and offer an abundance of nutrition. Spending as little as 30 minutes each week preparing a few healthy meals can make it easier to avoid the foods that sabotage your health and wellness and instead, leave you feeling energized and refreshed this fall season. What is your favorite quick and healthy food? We'd love to hear from you!
About Brandi Black, RHN
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. Experiencing her own health challenges at a young age led her to become passionate about educating on the healing properties of food, and how to achieve hormone balance, clear skin and sustainable weight loss naturally. In her spare
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