(Family Features) It’s one of the busiest times of the year, meaning managing mealtimes can be tough as families navigate the school year hustle. Between school, work, extracurriculars and social activities, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to eat and when.
Put your worries aside and become a true after-school hero with these timesaving, delicious meal planning strategies while giving back to communities in need.
Conquer Your Next Grocery Trip
When it’s time for a grocery run, write down everything you need, perhaps on your phone’s notetaking app, being sure to take inventory of ingredients you already have on hand. Keeping the list handy can make your trip to the store efficient while helping you stay on track, avoid multiple trips and prevent buying excess or unnecessary items.
Champion Your Inner Meal Planning
One of the first steps in meal planning should be making a list of all the meals you and your family enjoy on a regular basis. Compiling this list can help simplify weekly dinner plans and reduce stress at the grocery store. Include simple recipes like sandwiches, tacos or chili. If you want to make an easy, tasty dinner to save the day, consider something simple like chicken fried rice. All you need is 15 minutes and Ben’s Original Ready Rice, chicken breast meat, peas, carrots, reduced sodium soy sauce, garlic powder and eggs. As you try new recipes, add any family favorites to the list and consider reinventing classics by bringing in a different side dish like rice and grains to give them a whole new spin.
Come To the Rescue with Simple Prep Hacks
Before you plan your meals for the week, take a look at your calendar. On days that include evening activities, opt for easy-to-prepare meals or slow cooker- or air fryer-friendly recipes to save time. Leave more complex meals for less busy days or weekends, and don’t be afraid to schedule a weekly leftover night to empty out the fridge before your next trip to the grocery store.
Take Advantage of Pantry Staples
Turning to your pantry for after-school snacks and quick meals can help keep busy nights from getting even more hectic. For example, the entire portfolio of Ben’s Original Ready Rice – Whole Grain Brown Rice, Jasmine, Spanish Style and more – can help provide tasty, convenient meal options that are ready in just 90 seconds. Plus, until Nov. 12, for every $1 spent on participating products, $1 will be donated to No Kid Hungry through the “Be an After-School Hero” program, which can help provide 2.5 million meals to those who need them most.
Be a Prep Day Warrior
Setting aside some time – maybe a couple of hours on the weekend – to prep food for the week’s meals can help stretch your time and allow more moments to enjoy meals around the table as a family. This time can be used to cut, brown and divide proteins into portions; chop or slice fruits and vegetables; prepare one-pan dishes; make sauces; and more.
Fight mealtime fatigue and make school night meals a cinch with more ideas and recipes at BensOriginal.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Set Children Up for Day Care Success: 6 ways parents can prep little ones for child care
Long days of school, first trips to day care or even a return from a period of at-home care can be difficult or downright nerve-wracking for parents and children alike.
(Family Features) Long days of school, first trips to day care or even a return from a period of at-home care can be difficult or downright nerve-wracking for parents and children alike. This new adventure can bring challenges from keeping children healthy to supporting their nutrition and more. Sending a little one to day care can even result in maternal separation anxiety.
To help alleviate some of the anxiety and parental concerns, the childhood nutrition experts at Gerber teamed up with Dr. Whitney Casares – a board-certified practicing pediatrician and creator of “Modern Mommy Doc” – to share these tips for families preparing their little ones for child care.
Keep Important Factors Top of Mind
As part of appreciating the milestone of the first time at day care, Casares encourages parents to remember that, while daunting, day care means new experiences, new friends and opportunities for growth, fun and healthy development. As part of the transition, she suggests paying attention to critical factors like sleep, nutrition, illness prevention and emotional development.
Support Their Immune Systems
Offer little ones a diverse array of nutritious foods during the transition to day care. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is essential for building immune systems. Additionally, iron-rich foods like iron-fortified baby cereals, eggs, beans and meat are critical for a strong body. Caregivers should frequently wash hands and focus on good sleep hygiene.
Put Nutrition on the Menu
When packing lunch boxes for a day of care, it’s important to keep nutrition in mind. Once children transition to finger foods, Casares recommends snacks from Gerber like Peach Puffs, Fruit and Veggie Melts and Wonderfoods Superfood Hearts, which come in a variety of flavors and include vital nutrients to optimize health.
Be Prepared for Separation Anxiety
Not all infants and toddlers experience separation anxiety, but many can, so it’s good to be prepared. Casares encourages parents to pack a familiar swaddle blanket in infants’ diaper bags to help ease those anxieties. Some toddlers benefit from having a beloved stuffed animal or blanket with them. Try introducing these transitional objects to little ones early so they smell and feel familiar when drop-off comes around.
Pack the Essentials
While nutritious foods, like Gerber Fruit and Veggie Pouch Blends, are certainly near the top of the list, there are plenty of other essentials to pack for each day. Don’t forget to add breast milk or formula, bottles and extra nipples alongside snacks and meals. Also remember to pack extra sets of clothes, diapers, wipes and those anxiety-soothing must-haves like blankets and stuffed animals.
Prepare for Appetite Changes
It’s common for children’s appetites to decrease during their first few days of child care as they may eat a little less while growing accustomed to their new environment and surroundings. There’s no need to worry – parents can adapt to these changes by understanding they’re often a natural part of the transition. While you may find little ones are hungrier before and after day care, this behavior should ease over time. If it doesn’t, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to be sure babies stay on track.
To find more childhood nutrition advice, visit Gerber.com.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Taylor Taylor: Spreading Pickleball Passion in Memphis
Taylor Taylor: Professional pickleball player and founder of PickleMania, spreading the love of the game in Memphis. #PickleballPassion
Pickleball, a quirky fusion of tennis, ping pong, and badminton, has taken the sports world by storm. In recent years, it has emerged as America’s fastest-growing racquet sport. Even with its peculiar name, pickleball has captured the hearts of people across all skill levels and age groups, with its popularity skyrocketing during the pandemic. According to the United States Pickleball Association, a staggering 4.8 million Americans played pickleball in 2021. With courts springing up in public parks, schools, clubs, and driveways, this fun and social game offers remarkable accessibility and a low entry level compared to other racquet sports.
In Memphis, one individual has been instrumental in fostering the pickleball revolution. Meet Taylor H. Taylor, a former tennis instructor at prestigious clubs and a highly regarded junior tennis player. Five years ago, Taylor discovered pickleball and immediately recognized its immense potential. As a skilled competitor, she has participated in national pickleball tournaments, but her aspirations for the game extend beyond personal success. In 2019, she founded PickleMania, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing pickleball programming for under-resourced children, families, and communities.
Through partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs, charter schools, and generous donors, PickleMania has empowered over 250 kids to participate in pickleball camps, with plans for further expansion. Equipped with their own facilities, staff, and equipment, these camps offer more than just sports training. Taylor has developed a unique curriculum called “Pickleball With Purpose” that not only imparts on-court skills but also instills vital life lessons such as communication and impulse control, fostering confidence and personal growth.
Taylor’s passion for pickleball knows no bounds. She believes that this remarkable sport can bring people together, transcending age, race, size, experience, and athletic ability. As an accomplished player herself, she understands the therapeutic potential of pickleball, both mentally and physically. Taylor’s infectious enthusiasm has left an indelible mark on her campers, their families, and the volunteers who have witnessed the transformative power of pickleball.
Recently, Taylor appeared on Sleeve’s Senior Pickleball Report, where she engaged in an in-depth discussion about Pickleball Mania with host Mike Sliwa. Her dedication to sharing the love of pickleball with everyone on the planet is unwavering. Taylor Taylor’s commitment to pickleball and her tireless efforts to expand its reach are shaping the future of this dynamic sport in Memphis and beyond. With her game-changing vision, she is turning pickleball into a force for positive change, one swing at a time.
To learn more about Taylor Taylor and Pickleball Mani, follow these links:
Strengthen the Family Connection with Nostalgic Activities: 5 ways to share childhood classics with your kids
(Family Features) In spite of returning to busy school-day schedules and never-ending to-do lists, most families want to maintain a sense of connectedness all year round. Special moments with your family start by leaving behind that checklist, setting smartphones aside and saving responsibilities for tomorrow.
If you catch yourself reminiscing about the goodness you grew up on, turning back the clock and showing your kiddos what childhood was like for you is one way to foster a better connection with your kids. Throw it back to your childhood with these family-favorite activities to enjoy at the breakfast table, after school or over a weekend.
Read Favorite Books
Take it a more educational route and hook your children on a favorite novel, short story or book series. You can introduce them to favorite genres, popular characters or specific authors then head to the library to search the shelves. In fact, you could be giving them a leg up on English class; literature from your days in the classroom might still be read in schools today.
Share the Goodness You Grew Up On
Childhood in the ’80s and ’90s meant school-day mornings with cartoons and delicious breakfasts. Classics like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms and Cheerios were good then and are even better now with 20% the daily recommended value of Vitamin D – twice the previous amount. Vitamin D is essential for building and maintaining strong bones but is often under-consumed, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, with 96% of all Americans ages 2 years and older falling short on this key nutrient.
“Cereal has the same great taste as when parents were kids and now even better nutrition,” said Amy Cohn, registered dietitian and senior nutrition manager at General Mills. “Affordable, accessible nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or break the bank – and it can be as easy as a bowl of cereal beloved by multiple generations.”
Get Outside and Explore
Tech devices from tablets to video game consoles often dominate kids’ free time, but you can open their minds to a whole new world with a little outdoor exploration. Climb aboard bicycles (and strap on those helmets) for a cruise around the neighborhood or enjoy bird watching from the comfort of the backyard. If you’re on the adventurous side, gather a tent and s’mores supplies for a night or weekend in the great outdoors.
Watch Classic Movies
No VCR, no problem. A range of streaming services available at your fingertips means you can watch remastered classics just using a smart TV or casting device. Whether it’s a Spielberg favorite, original superhero flick or comedy classic, an abundance of kid-friendly movies from the video rental days are ready to watch online.
Play Board Games
Another way to turn kids’ attention from screens to the physical world is to dust off those old board games for some fun at the dining room table. Start with the basics like checkers or, with older children, jump straight into strategy-based brain games like chess for a dose of friendly competition.
For more ways to share your childhood with the next generation, visit GeneralMills.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (girl making bowl of cereal)
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