Nutritious Meals Make Better Grades

  • Store large quantities of cooked brown rice or pasta (kamut, spelt or whole wheat pasta are healthier options) in the refrigerator. Cooked rice or pasta can last up to 3 days in the fridge. Mix with sauce or toss into soups and you'll have a hot lunch in minutes. For a cold pasta or rice salad, reserve chopped raw vegetables from last night's dinner and toss with prepared cooked pasta or rice and dress with a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic (optional) salt and pepper.

  • Beans are an excellent nutrient dense food choice full of protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates that will provide energy and keep your children's blood sugar level stable for hours. Boil batches of dried beans on the weekend and keep individual-sized portions in the refrigerator. Cooked beans can be stored for 3-4 days. Beans can also be frozen in individual containers and defrosted in the refrigerator overnight. Toss beans into salads, soups, pita bread or mash with a little olive oil, garlic and lemon juice for an instant "hummus" that can be spread onto wraps. If you are using canned beans, opt for organic beans with no salt.

  • Beans are an excellent nutrient dense food choice full of protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates that will provide energy and keep your children's blood sugar level stable for hours. Boil batches of dried beans on the weekend and keep individual-sized portions in the refrigerator. Cooked beans can be stored for 3-4 days. Beans can also be frozen in individual containers and defrosted in the refrigerator overnight. Toss beans into salads, soups, pita bread or mash with a little olive oil, garlic and lemon juice for an instant "hummus" that can be spread onto wraps. If you are using canned beans, opt for organic beans with no salt.

  • Keep washed sliced vegetables in the fridge. Choose a selection of vegetables that your children like such as peppers, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers. Prepared vegetables can be quickly added to sandwiches and salads or packed into individual snack containers.

  • Try quick-cooking whole grains. Couscous and bulgur are complex carbohydrates that can be easily prepared in a thermos. Measure ¼ cup grain and rinse well under cold running water. Add ¾ cup boiling water. Let stand 10 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, open a thermos and add in some chopped vegetables and beans dressed with olive oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice and herbs for a quick, satisfying meal. Quinoa, a protein- rich ancient grain, can also be prepared in a thermos and mixed with either vegetables or a little cinnamon and maple syrup.

  • Stock your pantry with single portion easy-to-grab snack options such as whole wheat crackers, rice cakes, pumpkin or sunflower seeds (great over a mixed salad), dried cranberries, apricots, dates or apples and raisons. Keep single portion-sized containers of fresh berries, melons, pineapple, grapes and cheese in the refrigerator for quick add-ins to salads or as healthy snack options.

Reference: "Healthy Diet Means Better School Performance," Reuters.com, http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTON47353620080414 (July 2009)

(Joanne Capano is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She is a regular contributor to www.NaturallySavvy.com, a Web site dedicated to educating people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle.)