Your little one’s first day back to school isn’t that far off. Now is the time to think about new strategies for a productive school year. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

It’s always difficult transitioning from the laid-back summer schedule to the hectic schedule of the school year.

It usually takes a good month or so to get back into the groove, at least to where you feel confident everyone in your household is back on track.

And once you’ve gotten into the groove again, don’t you wish you could keep it going all year long? Wouldn’t it be great to keep everything running smoothly ’til next June?

It just so happens that a few handy tips can keep your family functioning like a well-oiled machine, at least when it comes to nutrition and meal preparation.

We all know that one of the best tools in the toolbox is the lunchbox.

Here’s how to keep your meals on track all year long:

Pack ahead

Pack lunches the night before to avoid the rush in the morning. This gives you more time to plan meals, which increases the chances you’ll select nutritious foods. Have your kids get involved in the lunch packing, too. They’re more likely to eat the food in their lunch when they’re involved in the process.

Be a portion pro

After-school sweets

If you want a fun, simple recipe for an after-school snack, just mix these ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup mini, semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

To simplify lunch preparation, cut your fruit into individual portions for the week. For example: If you have three kids and want them to have fruit each day of the week, you can cut 15 containers of fruit on Sunday night.

Get stocked and ready

For after-school snacks, consider stocking healthier items that are easy to grab, such as trail mix, unbuttered popcorn, or peanut butter on sliced apples or pears.

Coordinate schedules

Plan dinners in advance. On Sunday night, take a moment to survey your family’s schedule for the coming the week, identifying nights that involve sports practice, school activities, special events and so forth. Plan the meals accordingly. Consider having one night where your child is responsible for coming up with a meal.

Prep and freeze

Consider preparing and freezing meals well in advance. Once every few months, you can make a large batch of a particular food item, such as lasagna, then divide it into dinner portions. These can be frozen and labeled for easy use later on.