Healthy Food Tips for the New School Year

And we’re off!  School is officially in session!  Daily routines come back into play, and there is no better time to re-focus on healthy meals for your children (and yourself). This can be a challenge with hectic mornings and trying to get the kids off to school. Here are a few tips to help you in providing a nutritious breakfast and lunch for your kids, ensuring a healthy start to the school year.

Planning is Key

It takes some effort, but it is well worth the time saved on food shopping and meal preparation, and will reduce stress on those busy, early mornings.

  • Check supplies and re-stock if needed: insulated lunch box or bag, snack and sandwich boxes, compartment lunch boxes, ice packs, thermos, water bottle, BPA free plastic bottle for smoothies
  • Make a master list of meal and snack items to slot into your schedule. Note down recipes, ideas for sandwich fillings, fruit and veggie sides
  • Make a schedule for meals and snacks for the next 1-2 weeks. Take into account busy days (meals should be easier to prepare) and sports activities (kids may need more of certain kinds of food)
  • Prepare a shopping list
  • Note that some meals can be prepared and packed the night before and stored in the fridge (pasta or grain salad, bento box)
  • Some meals can be cooked ahead and frozen in appropriate portion sizes. Defrost in the fridge the night before, and they can be easily re-heated and put into a thermos in the morning (stews, pasta sauces, soups)
  • Dinner leftovers can be added to the plan: grilled veggies and roast chicken can be used the next day in a sandwich, wrap, pasta sauce, or grain salad
  • Allow kids to make some choices as they will be more likely to eat their meals: let them choose a favorite fruit or vegetable from a selection you define, or a favorite soup or pasta dish

When planning each meal, be sure to include the following foods:

  • Healthy protein: lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, or lentils
  • Healthy fat: avocado, olive oil, nuts or seeds, coconut oil (nuts and seeds may not be allowed your school, so keep these for home meals and snacks)
  • Low GI carbohydrates: fruit, vegetables, whole grains


Stock the Fridge and Pantry

You can save time by ordering from one of the many online food retailers in Hong Kong. Many of these supply a good mix of high quality meat, seafood and produce: grass fed and organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, wild seafood, and organic fruits and vegetables. iherb is also a good option for dried goods such as pasta and noodles, whole grain flour, porridge mixes, sauces seasonings, and any vitamins or dietary supplements you may need.

Food Preparation Tips

Some of the food preparation can be done earlier in the week, or the night before to make early morning cooking and packing of school lunches more efficient.

  • Buy fresh meat, poultry, and fish in larger quantities, then portion out and freeze in appropriate sizes for kids meals (useful for stir-fries, fried rice and noodles, chicken or fish fingers)
  • Fruits and vegetables can be pre-washed and cut so that they are ready to be added to a lunch box, used in a quick stir-fry, fried rice, or pasta sauce, or eaten as a healthy snack
  • Grains can be cooked ahead and stored in the fridge for a few days (rice, quinoa). They can be used in fried rice, a grain salad, or as a side dish
  • Pureed vegetable soups are a good option for slow or fussy eaters, and can include any vegetables you need to use up. Include one starchy vegetable (potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash) and a variety of non-starchy vegetables, herbs, and spices




The Importance of Breakfast

Breakfast is one of the most important meals for children as their brains burn fuel at a higher rate ours, and they are more prone to the adverse effects of overnight fasting. A good breakfast includes whole grain carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat. Studies have shown a direct link between academic performance and regular breakfast intake in children and adolescents.

Breakfast suggestions:

  • Oatmeal with toppings: fresh or dried fruit, nuts/seeds, honey, milk
  • Muesli (choose one with lower sugar content) soaked overnight in milk and/or yoghurt with fresh fruit
  • Granola (lower sugar content) with plain whole-milk yoghurt and berries
  • Boiled egg with whole wheat toast
  • Whole wheat toast with nut or seed butter (no added salt or sugar) and fruit
  • Smoothie
  • Brown rice congee
  • Whole wheat or spelt pancakes with fruit




Packed Lunch Ideas

  • Lentil soup and quinoa salad with tomato, cucumber, and honey vinaigrette
  • Basmati rice mixed with cooked flaked salmon (canned is a convenient option), chopped steamed green veggies, and soy sesame sauce
  • Whole wheat or spelt pasta with fresh tomato sauce, chopped vegetables, and beans
  • Fried rice or noodles with chicken fillet and chopped vegetables
  • Sushi with cucumber, canned tuna or tofu, and avocado with steamed cauliflower
  • Grass fed beef or lamb stew with baby spinach (added when re-heating) and brown rice or quinoa
  • Baked sweet potato fries (leftover) with cucumber sticks and hummus
  • Leftover roast chicken and pesto sandwich with sprouts and cherry tomatoes
  • Vegetable patties made with egg and whole grains
  • A selection of finger foods bento-style, choose from: fruit, vegetable sticks, cheese cubes, whole wheat crackers, boiled egg, beans, chicken fingers, mini meat balls, savory mini muffins (packed cold, eaten at room temperature)



Healthy Snack Ideas

  • Fresh fruit
  • Home made muffin with lower sugar content (substitute coconut sugar and use less than what the recipe calls for), whole grains, fruit, and vegetables (sweet potato, zucchini, pumpkin, carrot)
  • Hummus or other bean dip with veggie sticks
  • Boiled edamame beans
  • Seaweed (without sugar and artificial seasonings)
  • Smoothie
  • Home made organic popcorn

Hopefully,  this will help you get organized and off to a healthy start to the school year! Good luck, and happy planning….


Selina Picazo with her children Luca and Isabel
Selina Kuok with her children Luca and Isabel
Selina Kuok is a certified Clinical Nutritionist and co-founded Fresh Start to help people achieve better health through coaching, education, and providing practical solutions in the home.  She is especially interested in nutrition for women and children, and works closely with families to provide tailored meal plans and solutions for allergy sufferers.  Fresh Start can also help people with clinical conditions, or chronic illnesses.  In her spare time Selina enjoys time with her 10-year-old twins, testing out new recipes, and is an avid hiker.
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