Tag Archives: back to school

Back to School: Comfort Foods


I read this fascinating article by Mark Bittman talking about comfort foods.  For each of us, our comfort foods are different.  Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese makes me feel like I’m home, while my husband would rather go hungry.  One of my college roommates loved macaroni cooked in homemade tomato juice (think spaghetios without ketchup) which I avoided like the plague.

But as Bittman points out:  it doesn’t matter what your comfort food is.  Just think about what little changes make it a slightly healthier choice.  Even burgers and fries are likely better for you if you make them at home.  Swap your canned vegetables for frozen.  Upgrade to a whole grain pasta or brown rice.

Comfort foods are important meals for your family.  They make meal time a happy, hopefully battle-free zone.  Also, they shouldn’t be stressful for you to make.  These are the recipes that you no longer look at, you can just make it from off the top of your head.

So, as school is getting back in session and your lives are getting much busier, remember to occasionally go back to those comfort foods.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!



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Back to School: Menu planning


Back to school season feels a bit like New Year’s.  Time to make goals/resolutions.  Time to get back to a regular routine and schedule.  I hope menu planning is on everyone’s list of goals for this upcoming school year.

I know that menu planning seems like a time-consuming, painful task.  I do my planning on Tuesday nights, and I kind of dread that time.  But I do know that it saves me time and money in the long run.  Here are some tips to make menu planning easier and more useful.

– Have pre-set dinner nights.  At our house, Wednesday is breakfast for dinner, and Tuesday is leftover night.  It is incredibly nice to have two nights I don’t have to think of an idea for dinner.

– Look at your calendar while planning.  Don’t plan to make a lasagna from scratch the same night that you have 3 places to be.  Planning quick dinners for nights with full schedules will save you headaches and fast-food runs.

-Don’t plan too much at one time.  I think one week is plenty of time to plan at one time.  Fresh produce won’t last too much longer than that.  Plan less time and you’ll be running to the store frequently.  But plan the amount of time that works well for you.

– Have contingency meals.  I try to plan an all or mostly pantry or freezer meal at least once a week.  (Example:  Spaghetti with meat sauce and steamed veggies where the meat sauce and veggies are waiting in the freezer.)  Then, if something comes up, food isn’t going bad.  I can even move that meal to next week, making one less meal to plan!

– Involve your family.  Ask your spouse and kids what they want to eat this upcoming week.  If they picked it, you might curtail mealtime battles by reminding your child that he/she requested that meal.

– Post your menu somewhere visible.  This will remind you what in the morning what is ahead for the day and help prevent the “what’s for dinner” questions from hounding you.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, as my menu board above illustrates.

Hope this helps and happy menu planning!  Please share any other tricks you found to help in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Back to School: Lunches


With school starting soon, many of your lives will become busier and full of scheduled activities.  Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be sharing some tips to help you keep feeding your families nutritious foods during this time.

First stop:  lunch.  Packing a balanced, healthy, and interesting lunch for your kids can be a huge challenge, especially getting them prepared in the morning while serving breakfast and getting everyone out the door.  Here are some tips to help get more fruits and vegetables in your kids’ lunches that hopefully get eaten, too.

-Vary up the sides.  Even the same sandwich seems more interesting if the sides you send are different.  There are tons of different fruits and vegetables you can send.

-Prepare in advance.  I buy big bags of carrots and bunches of celery every week and get them all prepped that same day.  It takes me 15 minutes, start to finish on grocery day.  (See picture above for my finished product.) Then, I only have to grab portions out every morning. As an added bonus, I can serve these veggies in a pinch with dinner, too.

-Try convenience produce if needed.  In the produce section, apples, carrots, blueberries, and many other fruits and vegetables come packed into individual portions already.  You’ll pay more for these items than buying and prepping yourself.  But if that is the only way you can get them into the lunch box, it is worth the price.

-Add a sauce.  Many kids love to dip foods into a sauce.  You can buy individual packages of salad dressing or peanut butter to throw in lunch boxes.  Or buy little reusable containers to send little portions for your tike.  The few extra calories for the dip are not as important as all the nutrients they would miss out on if you skip the produce.

-Try dried fruits and vegetables.  Dried fruits are often sweeter, making them more appealing to kiddos.  Veggie sticks, crisps, and chips abound on the market.  Many of these contain quite a bit of sodium and are not as healthy as regular vegetables.  But they can be a good way to mix up lunch time while still focusing your child’s taste buds on vegetables.

-If you must, try juice.  Juice is not the best way to get your kids fruits and vegetables.  But if that is the only way they’ll eat them, it is better than nothing.  Just make sure it doesn’t have added sugars.  If it is a vegetable juice, check the sodium content.  And again, using juice for variety can make lunch time more interesting for you kids.

Hope this helps!  Happy lunches everyone!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Overnight Oatmeal

In my last post, I discussed the importance of getting enough protein at breakfast and mentioned oatmeal as a protein-rich breakfast.  However, many people don’t want to cook in the morning or eat hot cereal in the summer.

Overnight oats are a great solution and are fast, simple, and endlessly versatile.  I will give you the basic recipe here plus three variations I have tried.  But you can change up the liquid, fruit, sweetener, and other mix-ins to make it yours.

If you are skeptical (like myself and my husband), don’t be afraid!  It kind of tastes like eating a parfait with less crunchy granola.  We actually don’t mind hot cereal in the summer (interpreted as we eat oatmeal about 5 days a week), but this provides a nice variation to our usual routine.

If you are starting to get ready for back-to-school, this could be a great breakfast to add to your repertoire. Prepping it the night before saves you time in the morning. Your kids can even eat it in the car (if you trust them). And a filling breakfast can help them focus at school.


Overnight Oatmeal (Serves 1)

Basic Recipe:

½ cup dry rolled oats (NOT quick or instant oats)
½ cup liquid
½ tablespoon sweetener (more or less to taste)
Desired mix-ins

1. Mix oats, liquid, sweetener, and mix-ins in a sealable container. Place in fridge overnight. Stir again before eating, adding additional sweetener or mix-ins as desired.

Recipe notes: The liquid could be milk, juice, yogurt, soy milk, almond milk, etc. I probably wouldn’t sue water, but you could try it if you wanted. It doesn’t look like enough liquid, but it will be. I added more liquid because I was nervous, and I had soupy oatmeal in the morning. For a sweetener, I typically saw honey as I searched online. I’m sure traditional brown sugar for oatmeal would also work. If using a plain yogurt for your liquid, you might want to increase your sweetener amount. Most recipes I saw online said to put in seasonings at night, but add fruit/nuts/nut butters in the morning. I put everything in at night except for the chopped nuts, and it worked just fine.

Other mix-in ideas: cinnamon, chopped fresh fruit, berries (fresh or frozen), nut butter, chopped nuts, dried fruit

Here are my different concoctions. See the basic recipe for instructions.

Peach and Walnut Overnight Oatmeal (Serves 1)


½ cup dry rolled oats
½ cup peach flavored, nonfat yogurt
½ tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Calories: 400
Protein: 14.6 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 2 mg
Carbohydrates: 62 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 74 mg

Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal (Serves 1)


½ cup dry rolled oats
½ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
1-2 tablespoons milk (optional to thin it out a little)
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup blueberries

Calories: 326
Protein: 17.5 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 6 mg
Carbohydrates: 60 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 45 mg

Strawberry Overnight Oatmeal (Serves 1)


½ cup dry rolled oats
½ cup skim milk
½ tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup sliced strawberries

Calories: 257
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 2 mg
Carbohydrates: 50 g
Fiber: 6.5 g
Sodium: 55 mg

Source: adapted from many sources online

Low-iodine adjustment:  Use juice or water for your liquid.

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