The new school year is fast approaching and there is still a lot of uncertainty in many school districts. Will school begin online for your children this year? Are you still working remote? This is the case for many people across the country. Do you have a plan in place to keep your family’s nutrition and physical fitness on track during this time?
You may hear a lot at the beginning of this remote school year, “Have realistic expectations” or “Develop a schedule that fits your family’s needs.” This is also the case for your nutrition and fitness. Don’t be hard on yourself when things get difficult. Schedules will be tough to figure out at first and your schedule may live by trial and error. When creating your schedule, give yourself time. This may sound simple, but it simply is! Don’t schedule too many things in one day or too much back to back. Give yourself time to breathe and allow room for flexibility.
One of the worst things you can do while in stressful situations is let your nutrition falter. According to a Harvard Medical Blog, about 95% of our serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. The reason why this is important is because serotonin is believed to act as a mood stabilizer. It also helps regulate sleeping patterns. Serotonin can be found chemically in SSRI medications (antidepressants), however, did you know that there was a way to increase serotonin by eating the amino acid tryptophan? That’s right…Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan. Now we know why everyone is so happy after eating that Thanksgiving turkey. 😉
In all seriousness, there are many other healthy foods, and even plant-based options, that are high in tryptophan and are believed to help increase serotonin levels. Try incorporating more of these foods into your diet if you are looking to increase your serotonin levels:
- Pumpkin and Sesame seeds
- Tofu and Soy
As with any food, moderation is key. Too much of a good thing is still too much and there are always side effects of eating too much or eating the wrong thing for your body. Bottom line: If you are in a stressful time in your life, you simply cannot afford to eat garbage! It will make you feel worse. Make healthy food choices. The better you eat, the better you feel.
Make sure to prioritize eating healthy and make time to sit and enjoy your meal. Schedule mealtimes for the whole family if everyone is on a remote school/work routine and make that schedule work for you! Your body (and mind) will thank you for this.
Here are some nutritious, family friendly meals that can be used for lunch or dinnertime together and can be made in no time at all!
Ruby Red Yakitory Kebabs
Nothing says summer like grilling, and nothing say yummy like my yakitori kebabs! Grilling is such a healthy alternative to pan-frying and other methods that often use extra fat to boost the flavors. The smokiness from the grill and all that Asian influence really pack a punch. Just remember you do not want to burn your skewers, so if you are using wooden ones, make sure to soak them for at least 30 minutes. This makes a lot, but leftovers make a great lunch for later in the week.
- ¾ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin or apple juice
- ¼ cup organic ketchup
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or extra-firm tofu, cubed
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
- 1 red onion, cut into 1-inch squares
- Whisk together the soy sauce, mirin or apple juice, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil in a medium bowl.
- Place the chicken or tofu cubes in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in three-fourths of the marinade. Press most of the air out of the bag and seal tightly.
- In a separate bag, combine the peppers and onion and the remaining marinade. Press out the air and seal tightly.
- Refrigerate both the chicken and the peppers for 30 minutes to 2 hours, turning the bags occasionally to make sure everything marinates evenly.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high.
- Thread the chicken, peppers, and onion alternately onto skewers.
- Discard the chicken marinade but reserve the vegetable marinade.
- Lightly coat the kebabs with cooking spray.
- Turn the grill to medium and grill the kebabs over direct heat for 5 minutes.
- Turn, baste with the remaining marinade, and grill 5 minutes on the second side.
Serves 10 Nutrition facts per serving: 168 calories, 23 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat
Arugula and Beet Salad
The sweetness of the beets with the peppery arugula is a wonderful palate pleaser. Sometimes I add goat cheese to this salad, and it’s amazing! If you don’t have time to roast the beets, you can often find vacuum-packed roasted beets in the produce sections of better supermarkets.
- 2 medium beets
- 4 cups arugula
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Fine sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Trim the stems off the beets and lightly scrub with a vegetable brush.
- Wrap in foil and roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
- When cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut into ½-inch cubes—you should have about 1 cup.
- Chill to at least room temperature before making the salad. (You can also roast the beets up to 2 days ahead of time.)
- Toss the arugula and beets in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the oil and vinegar in a small bowl until emulsified.
- Add a pinch of salt and cracked pepper to the dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.
Serves 4 Nutrition facts per serving: 90 calories, 1 gram protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fat
Guiltless Grilled Cheese with Roma Tomatoes and Fresh Organic Oregano
Grilled cheese is a comfort food favorite, but you might know that this fried-in-butter sandwich is usually very high in fat. That’s why I decided to make it into a healthy version while keeping all the melty, gooey goodness. Fresh organic ingredients take it from ho-hum to haute.
- 2 Slices large whole wheat bread
- 1 1/2 Slices light Swiss cheese
- 1 1/2 Slices low-fat Cheddar cheese
- 1 Small organic Roma tomato, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh organic oregano, finely chopped
- olive oil spray
- Place the Swiss cheese on one side of a slice of bread. Then place sliced tomato on top and sprinkle with oregano.
- Follow with the Cheddar cheese and second piece of bread.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.
- Spray the outside of the sandwich with olive oil spray.
- Cook sandwich 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cheese is melted and bread is toasty.
- If cheese isn’t melting, cover the pan and check every minute until done.
Nutrition Facts per serving: 335 calories, 48 g Carbs, 24 g Protein, 5 g fat 1 serving = 1 sandwich
Mini Bagel Pizzas
Pizza. It is one of those soul-satisfying foods that is generally the enemy of weight loss due to the huge amount of fat and calories in most pizzas. But when you need it there just is no substitute. That’s why I had to create this quick & healthy version.
- ¼ cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
- 1 Toaster size whole wheat bagel
- ½ cup marinara sauce, divided
- 2 black olives sliced
- bell pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Spread ¼ cup marinara sauce on each half of bagel.
- Add cheese, olives, and your favorite veggies and place on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil.
- Toast in over for 10 minutes or until desired doneness. *Can also be done in a toaster oven.
Nutrition Facts per serving: 382 Cals, 24 gram Protein, 49 grams Carbs, 11 grams Fat
Another thing to consider during these unprecedented times when everyone is at home together is making time to be active. If your child is doing school remote, they may not have a physical education program set up for them to do online, however it is important for the whole family to get moving each and every day! Whether that is through walking, doing yoga, an exercise program, or family sports, make sure you get that time in. I wrote a blog post with some ideas on how to get moving a couple of months ago. You can check that out here. There are also many people doing kids recess at home on YouTube that the whole family can get involved in. Try using this search, or do a search on your own – there are a lot of helpful videos online!
Be well, keep moving, and eat healthy!