I’m one of those folks who loves a fresh start. I love a good Monday (especially when it falls on the first of the month). I love New Year’s. I know that technically, you can get a fresh start at any moment on any day, but the extra push of a new blank page in my planner never hurts.
Along those same lines, I absolutely love back-to-school each year. It has that same clean slate, fresh start, anything is possible vibe going on! With all the change that’s in the air around back-to-school time, it’s the perfect time of year for everyone in the family to get into healthy, purposeful routines! As my daughter’s preschool teacher said to us at new parent orientation, “Whatever routine you want your family to have for the rest of the school year, start it on the first day of school.”
And that doesn’t just apply to the kiddos either. That applies to your routine, too! Want to get up at 5am each day to do yoga before the before-school rush begins? Do it from day one. Want to read motivation books in the car line this year instead of killing time playing Candy Crush on your phone? Start from day one. Want to pack yourself a healthy lunch just like you do for your kids? Start on day one.
Getting in the habit of meal prepping for your family each week is a great routine to get into before school starts. Not only can you prep your kid’s lunches ahead of time, but you can also treat yourself with the same love and compassion by prepping healthy foods for the adults in your family at the same time.
My newest meal prepping obsession is this Chicken Pad Thai with Sweet Potato Noodles. It’s paleo, it’s dairy-free, it’s gluten-free, and my gosh, is it super delicious! This is not a traditional version of Pad Thai by any means, but it’s a delicious way to scratch that Pad Thai itch at home. With its intricate flavors and a little bit of kick, this meal prep recipe is more geared toward the adults in your fam, but if you happen to have a kid who is less picky than mine, this would also make a super healthy school lunch, too! If your kid doesn’t have access to a microwave, you can heat this before school and store in an insulated container (I like this one from Thermos) for a hot lunch.
Before I dig into the recipe, I want to talk with you about the containers I use to meal prep and pack lunches. I’m a big fan of using glass food storage containers. I know a lot of you are afraid of breakage, but I’ve been using glass food storage containers for over a decade now—and I have never broken a single one. They’ve been dropped and banged and bumped but never broken or cracked. They are pretty darn sturdy.
I even let my four-year-old use glass containers for her lunch (along with some stainless containers like these and these). She knows they are breakable and knows to be careful with them—she has to learn at some point that you need to be gentle with certain materials, so why not now? I tell her every day that she is capable, strong, and independent, and it’s important for me to show her that I believe that by trusting her with things like glass containers and dishes.
I like glass containers so much more than plastic because they are safe to microwave, don’t hold onto stains or smells, and last forever. We’re still using the same Pyrex glass food storage containers we got right after we got married 11 years ago. The plastic lids have started to crack and fail, but the glass bottoms? They look as good as new.
For meal prep lunches, I tend to gravitate toward divided containers because, honestly, the organization makes me happy. The containers I like the most are these MealPrep 2-Compartment Glass Containers. They are incredibly sturdy and strong—although since they are so strong, they are also pretty heavy. The lids are the “lock” style lids, so they are water-tight/leakproof, which is awesome.
I also use LunchBots Leakproof Metal Condiment Cups in these pictures to hold the extra sauce. I waffled about getting these for months because they are PRICEY, but I’m glad I finally ordered them because they are über useful. They are completely leakproof, and the perfect size for soy sauce or ketchup or hummus or any sort of garnish. And I like that they are small enough to wedge into bigger containers. Just make sure to pull them out before you pop your dish into the microwave.
Of course, you don’t have to pack this pad Thai up into containers to serve as lunches—it makes an amazing dinner recipe as well. And it’ll go pretty quickly if you carve out some of your weekend meal prep time to pre-cut the veggies.
My meal prep Pad Thai has a peanut sauce, but if you’re off peanuts due to an allergy or other dietary concerns, this recipe works beautifully with almost any nut butter. I’ve used both unsweetened cashew butter and almond butter with excellent results. I’ll say that cashew butter edges out almond butter slightly, just because of it’s creamier texture and milder flavor—but both are excellent.
I think sweet potato noodles (using a spiralizer) are wonderful in this dish, but when I was on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, sweet potatoes were off limits, and I made this using butternut squash noodles—still super delicious! If you aren’t grain-free, you can use traditional rice noodles or, honestly, whatever noodle makes you happy! Enjoy. And have a great school year!