Back to School Dinner Ideas

As the calendar rolls around to August, many parents begin thinking about their children going back to school. Gone will be the flexible schedules of summer ushered in by early morning routines and after school activities filling the calendar. For families, it can be an adjustment, not only logistically, but also nutritionally. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips to help plan for a healthy, nutritionally balanced back to school.

Following the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for proper nutrition, here are the five areas you need to consider:

Protein: This includes seafood, lean meats, poultry products, beans, peas, eggs, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Fruits: Fruits are a great option for a growing child. Try to avoid fruit juice, which can be high in sugar. Choose fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits (drain to reduce sugar intake).

Vegetables: Dark green, red and orange vegetables, beans or peas provide the best nutrition.

Grains: Skip white bread and try whole grains like whole-wheat bread, brown or wild rice.

Dairy: Kids need calcium, so choose fat-free or low-fat products, like milk, cheese or yogurt. You can also try to serve almond or soy milk if your child has an allergy to dairy.

Hillcrest South dietitian Stephanie Harris, MS, RD/LD, shares these nutritionally-balanced recipes that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

Grilled Lemon Chicken and Squash

Tasty slices of grilled chicken marinated in lemon with fresh grilled summer squash.
Prep Time: 15 minutes    
Cook Time: 10 minutes  
Makes 4 servings.


·   1 Tbs fresh lemon peel, grated

·   3 Tbs fresh lemon juice

·   1 Tbs olive oil

·   ½ tsp salt

·   ¼ tsp black pepper, coarsely ground

·   4 chicken thighs (boneless and skinless chicken thighs (about 1¼  pounds)

·   4 cups sliced summer squash, cut lengthwise into 4 wedges (and/or yellow squash)

·   ¼ cup fresh chives, snipped


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon peel, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper until well blended. Remove 2 tablespoons of mix and place in a small cup.

2. Place thighs in bowl with lemon mixture and toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat gas grill or grill pan for grilling over medium heat.

3. Remove chicken from marinade and place on grill along with the cut squash, discard remaining marinade from bowl.

4. Grill until chicken is thoroughly cooked and squash is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Turn chicken and squash once to brown evenly on both sides and remove pieces to a cutting board as they are done.

5. Cut chicken into 1-inch wide strips and slice each piece of squash in half crosswise. Place squash in a bowl and toss with reserved 2 tablespoons of lemon marinade, add chicken and chives, mix well and serve.

Nutrition Facts

Makes 4 servings; Amount Per Serving:  Calories 275.6; Total Carbs 1.8g; Dietary Fiber 0.4g; Sugars 0.6g; Total Fat 20.7g; Saturated Fat 5.4g; Unsaturated Fat 15.3g; Potassium 391.2mg; Protein 19.9g; Sodium 377.4mg

Buffalo Turkey Sliders

These sliders are all the goodness of your favorite tailgate flavors of buffalo-chicken in a bite-sized turkey burger slider!

Makes 12 sliders.


·2 pounds ground turkey breast

·1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus some for drizzling

·2 ribs celery, very finely chopped (~1 cup)

·1 carrot, peeled and grated or very finely chopped (~½ cup)

·1 small onion, grated or very finely chopped

·2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped

·Salt and pepper

·1 Tbs Old Bay Seasoning

·¼ cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot

·1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

·1/3  pound blue cheese, crumbled

·Splash of milk



·12 whole-wheat slider-sized buns or sliced brioche dinner rolls

·Chopped lettuce

·4 Tbs chopped chives

·Carrot and celery sticks


1. Heat oil in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery, carrot, onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook to tender-crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Let cool.

2. Place the cooled vegetables and meat in a bowl. Season with Old Bay, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and form 12 patties and drizzle with olive oil. Heat cast-iron or other griddle or grill pan.

3. Combine sour cream, blue cheese, splash of milk or cream in a small bowl.

4. Add burgers to the hot pan and cook 4 minutes on each side. Then, pile on buns with lettuce, a tablespoon of blue cheese topping and garnish with chives. Serve with carrot and celery sticks alongside.

Minted Fruit Salad with Almonds

Depending on what is in season, substitute or add other spring or summer produce to the salad like blackberries, cherries, grapefruit, kumquats, or plums. Serve this as a salad or light dessert.


3-4 peaches, pitted and sliced
1 (6-ounce) container blueberries
1 (6-ounce) container raspberries
6 ounces strawberries, quartered
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ bunch mint, leaves only
¾ cup Marcona almonds
2-3 tablespoons sugar substitute


In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together. Serve immediately.