By Erin Haverty, Communications Coordinator
Maine Dairy Promotion Board | Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council

As the weather gets warmer and the grass is greener, everyone starts to get back outside. Spending more time outdoors often leads to busier schedules. When life becomes busy, it is important to remember the importance of a nutritious meal. There are many ways to prepare, customize, and store meals to make sure you always have enough fuel for when you and your family are on the go.

Life is busy, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice healthy eating. When trying to come up with ideas that are quick and simple, you want to make sure you have different meal components that help create a well-balanced meal. A good place to start could be looking at how the USDA regulates meal patterns for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). These regulations closely align with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate recommendations and can help you when thinking about what to include in a meal. The breakfast meal components include fruits, grains, and milk. The lunch components are fruits, vegetables, grains, meat/meat alternative, and milk. Using these tools at home can help us create well-balanced meals full of flavor and variety.

Another way to ensure nutritious meals for a day on the go is to prepare what you may need the night before. I like to prep as many parts as possible of a meal that I can to make my weeks easier. The most common thing I do every week is wash and cut all my fruits and vegetables. This differs from week to week depending on what I buy but common things would be dicing an onion and bell peppers or washing my strawberries and raspberries. These are ingredients I can use in multiple meals or just eat as a snack. I have noticed when I prepare and clean them before, it becomes easier to make different meals and eat more when it is already prepared.

Storing your food properly and ahead of time is a way to ensure you have healthy meals on hand. This helps prevent being rushed for time and grabbing fast food or less nutrritious meals. Many different foods can be stored for a few days using proper storage methods. You can make some meals ahead of time and store them in a safe manner, so they are ready to grab and go when you are.

When I create my ‘on-the-go fuel’, I always try to find customizable recipes. I tend to not like having the same meal every day, so it is fun when I find recipes that have ingredients I can swap in and out. For breakfast, I will often make eggs as a part of my meal. I customize my eggs almost every morning by adding different vegetables such as onions, spinach, and bell peppers. I will add different seasonings like garlic powder, basil, oregano, and thyme. To save time, sometimes I will use premade frozen chicken instead of raw chicken breast in recipes. This can help when you may not have time to meal prep chicken or if you are unsure of how much you are going to eat during the week.

If you are looking for a quick lunch or dinner that can be taken on the go, easily eaten outside, and can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, try these Chicken Ranch Wraps. This healthy meal packs lots of nutrients into one simple wrap that can be eaten with your hands – no plates necessary. This would be great for games or events that are scheduled near meal times. You can also make these wraps ahead of time and store them in your fridge for up to three days in an airtight container or wrapped in foil. This meal is also full of customizable options. You can swap out different kinds of cheese, lettuce, or seasonings on your chicken. You may also add more veggies such as bell peppers and cucumbers or add another meat option such as bacon.