Back to School . . . and Back to the Kitchen: Nutrition Advice from your Pawling Hannaford Dietitian

by Allison Stowell, Registered Dietitian

“Hello school year” . . . and “Hello busy evenings – and school lunches that need to be packed before the bus arrives each morning.”

Getting ready for “back to school” is about more than locating the best binder or 48 (sharpened) pencils. It’s about managing those eventful evenings and packing quick lunches that your kids will eat. This year, I propose a back to school checklist unlike anything you will receive from your school – but just as important for a successful school year.

5 lunches (at least)

As you prepare for the upcoming school year, I also recommend that you prepare a menu with at least five lunch ideas that are “your-kid approved” and that you feel good about, too. While some of these options may be leftovers or require a bit of prep, you also need some on the list that come together quickly with products you tend to always have on hand. The bottom line is that you need to have a list of easy, affordable (healthy!) lunches that quickly answer the “what do you want to eat for lunch” question.

Meals that match Your calendar

Adjusting to a new and busy schedule is the biggest transition at the start of the school year. Your back to school planning is incomplete until you reflect on this new schedule; the days you will be able to cook dinners; the days you won’t; and what you will do to avoid last-minute trips for expensive, often unhealthful, take-out. I recommend streamlined meals that turn tonight’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunch and dinner too.

Supplies for Packable Lunches

As the academic year begins, your school supply list should go beyond what you need for the classroom and include what you need for the cafeteria, too. Lunch supplies like an insulated beverage holder (e.g., from Stanley or Thermos) that keeps hot foods hot (above 140 degrees) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees) or reusable snack pouches and sandwich wraps are key to packing safe meals and minimizing waste. Without the right tools, you may find that lunches your kids usually like get passed up just because they aren’t the right temperature or don’t hold up until lunchtime.

Breakfasts that Beat the Clock

Breakfast before school is not option: It’s a must. Most students aren’t given an opportunity for a morning snack, so if breakfast is missed, their first chance to eat comes after several hours. If time is an issue, prepare an overnight oats breakfast (hot in a small crockpot or cold in yogurt); prepare a frittata or crustless quiche ahead of time to quickly reheat; or simply change “the usual” to boost nutrition, such as passing on syrup and putting peanut butter on a waffle instead. Please remember that any healthful option can be breakfast, and eating something is what’s most important.

Afternoon Snacks that Fuel

Most students come home hungry and want (and need) to eat something. I recommend having a list of balanced, healthful snacks that work within the framework of the day. Sometimes a “snack” is actually a meal (calorically). In this case, a balanced meal (early dinner) is a more nutritious choice, especially on a busy afternoon.

Guiding Stars

More than just an in-store program that rates the nutritional quality of foods, Guiding Stars offers nutrition guidance through an active website that includes a blog, webinars and hundreds of recipes like the one below. To learn more online, visit:

As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and more back-to-school tips and suggestions for quick and easy meals. Please for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours, or call (845) 855-0553 for more information.


Edamame Salad (2 Guiding Stars, a “Better” for you choice)

This is a protein-rich alternative to salads that typically use meat or eggs.

Use a dairy-alternative yogurt to make it vegan.


1 (15 oz.) can no-salt-added chickpeas, smashed

1/2 c. nonfat, plain Greek yogurt

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/4 t. salt

2 t. Sriracha sauce

1 T. lemon juice

2/3 c. shelled edamame

1 green onion, chopped

1 lg. celery stalk, chopped

2 T. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

2 c. lettuce, torn

4 whole-wheat pitas


Combine all ingredients except for lettuce and pitas. Stir to combine.

Divide lettuce and salad among pitas.