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As every parent knows, when the school year kicks into gear, life can start to feel chaotic at best and overwhelming at worst. And amidst the whirlwind of juggling packed schedules, school runs, and extracurricular activities, it’s easy to lose sight of personal health goals and self-care. 

Expert nutritionist and fitness coach Corinne Zaffarese Elbourne knows first-hand the challenges of raising a family and dealing with the stresses of work – all the while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle – and she’s here to help.

In this blog, Corinne shares tried-and-tested life hacks that will go a long way towards helping you manage your wellbeing while handling the morning madness, lunchbox headaches, after-school snack attacks, and dinner dilemmas. It isn’t always easy to find precious ‘me time’, or to stick to your weight loss plan, but it is possible.

Quick tip: Sometimes, self-care just means not taking yourself for granted (like remembering to make breakfast for yourself when you’re already preparing everyone else’s). Start by trying to get up 15 minutes before the rest of your household wakes up. Use that time to fit in a quick, 10-minute morning workout to kickstart your metabolism and boost your energy, and dedicate five minutes to morning mindfulness by meditating on your intentions or by creating a doable to-do list to keep your priorities in check.

Morning Madness: Starting Your Day Right

The early morning rush can set the tone for your entire day. If you want to get off to a good start, don’t underestimate the power of a proper breakfast. Dashing out the door on just a sip of coffee means you’ll be running on empty until lunch, and it will be so much harder to resist the temptation of a sugary snack when you hit the mid-morning slump.

So, how can you squeeze a quick and healthy breakfast that fuels you and your family into your morning routine?  Keep it simple! Start with overnight oats. A breakfast of overnight oats with fruit and nuts ticks all the boxes – easy to make, nutritious, tasty, and versatile. All you have to do is combine rolled oats with milk (dairy or plant-based) and yoghurt in a jar or container. Add natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, and mix in your favourite toppings like fruit, nuts, seeds, or spices for extra flavour. Seal the jar, refrigerate it overnight (or for at least four hours), and voilà!

In the morning, your oats will have absorbed the liquid and flavours, creating a creamy and satisfying breakfast that’s ready to eat. Best of all, your kids can help you make them, and if you seal them properly, they’ll last for up to three days in the fridge. 

Quick tip: If oats don’t float your boat, try a smoothie packed with greens, protein, and a touch of natural sweetener, or go for avocado on toast with a protein source such as cottage cheese or peanut butter.

Lunchbox Lessons for Parents and Kids

Now that the dreaded (back-to-school) lunchbox season has begun, batch cooking can be a lifesaver. If you prepare salads, grilled proteins, and roasted vegetables in advance, and store them in containers in the fridge, you can put together quick and balanced lunches in the morning (or the night before) for you and your kids, without having to rack your brains or lose track of your weight loss goals.

You can get the kids involved by letting them choose what they want in their lunch box from your pre-prepared options – they’ll be more likely to eat their lunch if they’ve chosen their own food, and it will set them in good stead for making healthy choices in the future. And don’t forget to pack a lunch box for yourself! It will help you avoid unhealthy snacks and take-aways while you’re at work – just make sure it’s compartmentalised so that you can control your portion sizes, and always carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. 

Quick tip: Here’s the trick – whatever you’re cooking over the weekend, or in the evenings, make extra! No need to add more cooking time to your already busy schedule – leftovers make for great lunchbox fillers. Just remember to aim for a mix of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.

After-School Snack Attacks

Kids are always hungry when they come home from school – and it doesn’t seem to matter if they’ve eaten all their lunch or not! And let’s face it, we parents are not immune to a snack attack either. But snacks can make or break your diet so, once again, pre-planning is essential. 

There are plenty of healthy options that your children will actually enjoy, so there’s no need to keep your cupboards stocked with unhealthy temptations, like crisps and chocolate biscuits. Nutritious options like almonds, walnuts, or cashews provide a satisfying crunch and a dose of healthy fats, while blueberries, strawberries, bananas, or sliced apples will satiate the desire for something sweet. Simply add some Greek yoghurt, rich in protein, and you’ve got yourself a seriously yummy snack that you and your kids can share – and that doesn’t come with a side of guilt! 

Quick tip: Create a designated snack drawer at work and at home, ensuring that a quick, healthy choice is always within reach. If you’re not ruled by a sweet tooth, you can opt for whole-grain crackers or rice cakes to pair with your favourite spreads, and you can load up the fridge with cut veggies, such as carrot sticks and cucumber slices, that will go perfectly with a delicious hummus dip. 

Dinner Dilemmas: Quick Yet Nutritious Recipes

By the time dinner rolls around, most of us are already exhausted after a long day of work, housework, and driving back and forth to after-school activities. Preparing a nutritious dinner that the whole family will enjoy can seem like a hill too steep to climb. That’s when sheet pan dinners can be your secret weapon. Who doesn’t love an easy, one-pan solution where vegetables and proteins can go into the oven together and come out looking, smelling and tasting delicious? 

Choose an array of colourful veggies like bell peppers, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, alongside lean proteins such as chicken breast or tofu. Season with your favourite herbs and spices, and let the oven do the work. Best of all, you can switch up the flavours and ingredients in a myriad of ways, so you won’t feel like you’re eating the same thing all the time, and your family won’t get bored.

Quick tip: If you have a slow cooker or air fryer, utilise them to your advantage. Prepare your meals in the morning, so you return home to a hot, ready dinner. Slow cooker stews, soups, or chilli are not only convenient but also perfect for those chilly evenings. Alternatively, air fryer recipes can give you that crispy texture without excess oil.

Finding ‘Me Time’: Balancing Parent Duties and Personal Goals

Even with the best of intentions, it’s all too easy to forget to carve out time for yourself. This is where after-school programmes or extracurricular activities can actually be a blessing, rather than just another chore. Drop your kids off and then use the time to engage in activities that help you de-stress and contribute to your weight loss goals. A simple evening walk in the fresh air, a calming yoga session, or even just dancing to your favourite tunes in the kitchen can rejuvenate your body and mind. 

And at the weekend, get the family involved in at least one physical activity that you can all do together, such as hiking, or biking, or playing football!

Quick tip: On Sunday evening, take a moment to reflect on the past week’s successes and challenges. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and learn from any setbacks. Set realistic goals for the week ahead, keeping your commitment to consistency at the forefront of your mind. And remember: your weight loss objectives are well within reach!

Embracing Growth Amidst Challenges

The back-to-school season undoubtedly brings its share of challenges. However, it’s important to recognise that it also presents an opportunity for personal growth and transformation. By prioritising self-care and staying dedicated to your weight loss journey, you’re not only taking care of yourself but also setting a powerful example for your children. Remember that you have the strength to find balance and thrive amidst the chaos. Stay consistent, seek support when you need it, and always believe in yourself – you’ve got this!

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