Back to School: Sustaining Happy Gut Habits

Summer is winding down, the days are getting shorter, and vacation is coming to an end.

However, getting back into a routine and schedule can be rewarding, especially when it comes to getting the kids back to school so you can get in the groove of that routine. (Right?)

Once school and afternoon activities hit, you’ve probably got little time to prepare healthy meals and snacks. You might be tempted to resort to grab-n-go and fast food, and other healthy habits often fall to the wayside.

Let’s turn that idea around as we dive back into the busy school schedule. As a single parent and medical doctor with a teenage son, I know how hard establishing a healthy routine can be as the demands of everyday life impede.

Here’s how I do it, and how you can too. 

Habit 1: Meal Prep

Meal prep is key for families constantly on the go. The last thing you want to do at 7 pm is to cook a meal after running around all day. If you can prep most of your items ahead of time, you can enjoy your evening after work or attend to other responsibilities.

Meal prep doesn’t mean you have to be in the kitchen the entire weekend. First, find a time to go to the grocery store. Make it a designated time so that it becomes a priority. After that, establish a one- to two-hour block of time for food prep.

During that prep time, you can easily prepare meals for a majority of the week. See some easy options below.

  • Make up a big salad with a variety of raw vegetables.
  • Take a sheet pan and spread out an assortment of vegetables and roast them with avocado oil and sea salt.
  • Bake fish and chicken. Season simply with avocado oil, sea salt, fresh lemon and choice of herbs.

Cooking can be simple and delicious. These options are also Happy Gut-approved and perfect for the whole family. You save money, skip the fast food, and still reach the needs of a demanding schedule.

Habit 2: Snacks on Hand

Healthy snacks are an important addition between meal time for your children, especially when they’re at school or are heading off to an afternoon activity. Many snacks contain processed sugar, gluten, preservatives, and artificial colors. Sadly, these are empty-calorie, gut-sabotaging fake foods.

Let’s change that. Have some prepped snack options on hand or healthy alternatives to processed foods. Some smart alternatives I love to incorporate as a grab-n-go snack include:

  • Mini Nut Butter Sandwiches: Simple Mills crackers spread with almond butter, stick together and pack.
  • Chips and Guac: Siete Chips with mashed avocado & sea salt.
  • Veggie Sticks: celery and carrot sticks with cashew butter.
  • Trail Mix: dark chocolate chips mixed with coconut flakes, macadamia nuts, and almonds.

Habit 3: Family Meal Time

Sitting around the table, with no electronics and discussing the day’s events, is essentially a past time in modern day society. That’s why I want to bring more awareness around how disconnected our society has become with meal time. Eating in a rush or in front of the TV is worse for your digestion and often leads to overeating.

If sitting at the table isn’t realistic every night of the week, schedule one day that works best. For many families, this might be Sunday evening. Eating meals with a community can promote healthy digestion and will help you to maintain the connection with your family. Focus on enjoying the food, eat slow and give thanks for the nourishment the food and this experience is providing for your body.

Habit 4: Stick to a Routine

Routines are key to maintaining your health goals and sustaining good eating habits. Determine a morning and evening routine to ensure you prioritize what you need to get done for yourself and the whole family.

Setting aside time for rest, exercise, meals, and reflection is key to maintaining a Happy Gut and being able to stay focused and calm throughout your hectic day.

Worth repeating: Stick to a shopping and prep day so that this also becomes an easy habit to maintain.

Habit 5: Prioritize Sleep

Oh, sleep. Something so many of us are lacking. The average individual should be getting somewhere between 7-9 hours each night. Most Americans are not getting that much, or if they do, it isn’t quality sleep. Our bodies need this time to process the day, repair, detoxify, and become energized for the next day.

While you establish a healthy routine, make a conscious effort to prioritize sleep. Lack of sleep can negatively impact how you make it through your day.

I suggest winding down around 9 pm and putting all electronics away. Try a few restorative yoga poses, a meditation, or cozy up with a book and allow the mind to rest. Lights out before 10 pm for optimal sleep.

Try incorporating these five Happy Gut habits while you transition out of summer mode and into a new season. 

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