SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — With the fall feel in the air and summer behind us, parents are once again juggling a lot! Soccer practice, dance, whatever it may be… all while trying to make sure their kids have the right food to fuel them.

In this Wellness Wednesday, we’re sharing tips to keep your meals healthy and make the most of your time from Upstate Registered Dietitian Julie Mellen.

The big thing you want to avoid is processed food.

“Anything that’s kind of taken out of its whole form is really considered a processed food.”

Julie Mellen

If it comes out of a package, Mellen says it’s generally missing some key nutrients.

If things have a lot of ingredients in them, if you can’t read the ingredients, that would tell me to kind of back off with that.

Julie Mellen, Registered Dietitian

What many people might not realize, is that there are different levels to processed foods. So the word itself isn’t automatically a bad thing.

There are some healthy processed foods you can fill your kid’s lunch bag with, like bagged apples or carrots!

You can easily find those snack hacks if you follow Mellen’s rule of thumb at the grocery store.

“Try to stick with the perimeter because as you walk in a grocery store, you’ll see all the fresh produce, you’ll walk around you’ll see fresh meats,” she said.

Another hack: what Mellen calls one, two, three meals. That’s piling plates with a protein, a vegetable, and a whole grain.

Meals don’t have to take all night either.

“Using a crockpot this time of year is wonderful because you can throw so many things into that and make a nice healthy meal and not have to even worry about it when you get home,” said Mellen.

If all else fails, remember the foundation:

“More whole foods, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.”