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6 Must-Have Ingredients For Healthy Back-To-School Eating

Parents today face two sizable challenges when feeding school-age kids: time is limited, and "quick and easy" foods are generally not very good for anyone, much less growing little people. We've all been there, packing lunches while making dinner and/or dealing with homework and/or making a call. Before we know it, that bag is stuffed with pre-packaged snacks loaded with sugar, fat and chemicals.

Luckily for our kids, nutritional awareness has come a long way. So how do busy parents ensure that their kids are getting good nutrition when there's so little time to prepare it? The key is having a plan, and the right ingredients on hand. Here are 5 kitchen staples that make it easy to put together healthy, yummy, kid-friendly snacks:

1. Almond butter

Almond butter is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats, magnesium and potassium. It contains the protective antioxidant vitamin E and is a low-glycemic food. Why not just use peanut butter? Well, in addition to more total vitamins and minerals, almond butter has half the saturated fat. And, it's far less allergenic. It's easy to find at most grocery and health food stores. Spread it on whole grain bread, waffles or muffins, or use it to make homemade granola bars,

Easy almond butter recipes

2. Whole-grains

Not to be confused with refined grains, which is what you get in white bread and items such as pretzels and most traditional baked goods. Whole grains are high in fiber, protein and protective plant compounds. To give your kids the benefits of whole grains, check for products that contain the whole kernel--wheat bran, endosperm and germ. This would include wheat berries, long grain rices, barley, oatmeal, quinoa and buckwheat.

Easy whole grain recipes

3. Flaxseed

A surprising choice, maybe. But, this plant food is a nutritional powerhouse. One cup of flaxseed contains over 30 g of protein plus a variety of amino acids. It's loaded with vitamins, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle it on their cereal or add it to pancake batter. Replace 1/4 cup of flour with flaxseed when making homemade muffins, bread or granola bars.

Easy flaxseed recipes

4. Sweet potatoes

Remember how your kids loved it when they were babies? Sweet potatoes are nutritionally dense, inexpensive and easy to prepare. Rich in vitamins A, C and B, they are also high in fiber and potassium. Cook and mix into oatmeal, or incorporate into pancakes and muffins for a sweet and filling start to your kids' day.

Easy sweet potato recipes

5. Avocados

What's so great about avocados? They are nutritious and easy to incorporate into many recipes. Their mild flavor makes them almost undetectable to picky palates. And, they are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, the “good” fats that kids need in their diet every day. Avocados are also rich in fiber, B-vitamins, vitamin K, potassium, copper, vitamin E and vitamin C. Spread on wraps in place of mayonnaise or cream cheese, make guacamole and serve with whole grain tortilla chips, or just spoon them out of the peel for a quick, nutritious on-the-go breakfast.

Easy avocado recipes

6. Mangos

Mangos are versatile and kids love the sweetness. Just one cup provides almost a whole day’s supply of vitamin C, essential to the immune system and healthy teeth and gums. And they get 3 grams of fiber in just 100 calories. You can use fresh mango when in season, or frozen chunks all year long. Add frozen mango to smoothies, dice up to make fresh homemade salsa or freeze into popsicles.

Easy mango recipes

Your busy schedule doesn't have to keep you from feeding your kids nutritious, delicious foods that they will actually eat! Everything from dinners to desserts can count toward your kids' daily requirements, if you have the right ingredients on hand. Happy Healthy Eating!

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