5 healthy back-to-school grocery shopping tips

(Kim Salt for The Washingrton Post)

Now that many of us parents have kids who are back to school, the days are about to get a whole lot busier, and getting healthy meals and snacks on the table becomes a lot more challenging. I know this challenge firsthand, because I am a mama of three boys.

Years ago, when my boys were small (our youngest is now 12 years old), I juggled my full-time job as an IT executive with cooking and other household responsibilities. I was determined to cook healthy, fresh meals by batch cooking on the weekends. As a child growing up in Cameroon, I was fed only the freshest organic foods from my family’s gardens and local markets. So I was accustomed to homemade food, and I wanted the same delicious and nutritious food for my family.

Following my youngest child’s birth in 2004, as a full-time working mama, I realized that I could not find pure, made-from-scratch baby food to feed my baby. Baby food in the market was highly processed and pasteurized, often using additives and preservatives so that it could easily sit on grocery shelves for two to three years without refrigeration — all of the things I knew babies, including mine, didn’t need.

So I cooked my own food using freshly harvested produce, free of harmful toxins. It was important to me that the food I made for my young son was always vibrant in color, fresh, aromatic and chock-full of nutrients. And it had to taste delicious, with no additives or preservatives.

This eventually turned into a full-time business for me, and I founded Yummy Spoonfuls Organic Baby Food 10 years ago.

Dietitian Ellie Krieger, Nourish Schools co-founder Casey Seidenberg and certified health education specialist Elaine Gordon offer picks for meals from breakfast to dessert.

Today, my kids are older, and I still stick with healthy foods for them. I know this isn’t easy, because our children sit in school cafeterias filled with treats, salty preservative-laden snacks and junk food. Because of the lack of options and peer pressure, healthy eating at home is more important than ever — especially if you can’t control what they eat at school by packing their lunches and snacks.

Parents have tremendous influence over our kids’ habits, which serve them for life. It is worth the effort to give them a healthy start. I admit, it is sometimes not the easiest thing — but it is doable. Here are some of my suggestions.

Find the best food around the perimeter.

The perimeter of the store is where fresh food is found. Produce, dairy, meat and fish make the most nutritious snacks. Be sure to look for items that have only one ingredient, and choose organic as much as possible to be sure the food is free from harmful chemicals. I like to pack leaves of lettuce, carrot sticks, slices of cucumber and red bell pepper with a dip, like hummus or yogurt dressing. Whole, fresh fruit is always…

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