For many families, getting the kids ready to go back to school is among the most hectic times of the year. There’s shopping to do, appointments to schedule, lunches to make, sports practices and games to attend, and homework. With an ever-expanding to-do list, it can be hard to find the time to prepare healthy meals and get in some exercise time. Dedicating valuable time to cook healthy meals and keep your daily exercise routine. Planning and preparing are key to keeping everything under control during back-to-school season.

An easy way to stay organized is a weekly family calendar. Use your computer, buy a planner when purchasing school supplies, or make one by hand. Include appointment times and locations on the calendar, making sure to account for travel time. Try color coding events according to who needs to attend to make it even easier for everyone in the family to keep track of their obligations. At the beginning of each week, look for free time on the calendar and schedule in exercise, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. A good way to fit exercise into your schedule is to integrate it with another activity. For example, walk around the field during your child's soccer practice. Remember, exercise does not need to be done all at once. Doing shorter workouts throughout the day is just as beneficial, so squeeze in some quick jumping jacks or push-ups whenever you can!

Another way to stay healthy is to plan out meals and snacks. Set time aside to make meals that can be reheated as needed. When leaving the house for a day of shopping or errands, pack nutritious and portable snacks. Cut up an apple or put a serving of nuts in a plastic zipper bag. This will help you and your family resist the temptation of fast food, food courts, or concession stands. Also, never leave home without eating a protein-rich breakfast. This will not only provide essential fuel for your body, but it will keep hunger at bay as well.

Even if you plan and prepare, staying healthy can be hard without motivation. One way to motivate yourself is to use a pedometer, a small and inexpensive gadget that counts the number of steps you take. Experts recommended 10,000 steps a day. Set higher goals each day and you will walk more to meet them!

Exercise with a friend or family member also can be a source of motivation, making you accountable to your workout partner and making exercise more fun. If you can afford it, a personal trainer also can be a huge motivator.

Whatever you do for motivation, make sure to plan and prepare when you know you’ll be busy. This will keep your health in check!