It's back-to-school time and that means summer vacations are over and schedules are starting to become more predictable for everyone. It also means that we have to start thinking all over again about getting our kids the right food and snacks for their time at school. Here are some strategies and a few great food ideas that can help your kids get the good nutrition they need to stay sharp and energized all day.
Strategies to Keep Your Kids Healthy
1) Breakfast is a very important meal for growing children. Starting off their day with a balanced meal high in nutritional value will provide them with a sound physical and mental foundation. It will set up the rest of their day and let them make the most of their school time. Studies show that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Their overall test scores are higher, they concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination. So whether they eat at home or at school, be sure your kids eat a nutritious breakfast every day.
2) If you pack your children's lunch, make sure to include lean protein, whole grains, and veggies and stay away from lots of cookies, sodas, or other sugary foods. This will help them to be alert and awake for the second half of the day without the wild swings in energy that come with lots of sugar. One way to get your kids on board with eating a healthy lunch from home is to take them grocery shopping with you and allow them to pick out healthy foods that they enjoy. They will be much more likely to eat what you pack for them if they have picked it out themselves.
3) If your children's school provides meals, take time to examine the menu and go over it with them to discuss how to build a healthy and nutritious meal they will enjoy. Teach them which foods will help them be their best and which ones will actually set them back by being too high in fat, sugar, or both.
4) If your children are involved in after-school activities, pack a healthy snack they can eat beforehand. Fruit or vegetable slices and whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese are healthy options that will give them the energy they need to make it to dinner. Once again, it's important that they maintain energy and alertness in order to do well in their sports or other activities. To do that they need healthy foods! Here are some options to think about.
Healthy Snack #1: Fresh Fruit Kebabs
One of the easiest healthy snack ideas is to create your own kebabs. You can create both sweet and savory varieties. For sweet kebabs you simply need a variety of different fruits. Get a skewer and then place chunks of pineapple, mango, apple and any other fruit that you like onto it. Fruits are good sources of fiber and most kids love fruit.
If you want to create savory kebabs then you can use cucumber, low fat cheese, sliced ham and tomatoes. Kids absolutely love these and they can even get in on the act of making them. Not only will it be a healthy snack, but they'll have a lot of fun creating them as well!
Healthy Snack #2: Trail Mix
Trail mix can be a great healthy snack when it contains seeds, nuts and dried fruits. And once again it can be a great source of creative fun for them if they make it themselves. Take them to the grocery store and allow them to choose what they want in their homemade trail mix. They will be much more likely to eat the snacks if they have created them themselves. And there are a ton of healthy ingredients to choose from in the bins of healthy grocery stores like New Leaf.
Healthy Snack #3: Mini-Muffins
How about making little mini-muffins with healthy foods such as pumpkin or flax seed, shredded apples, etc. One of our favorite recipes can be found on the back of Bob's Red Mill Ground flax seed. It's a great muffin recipe that out kids love. They are low fat, high fiber, and really taste great!
Healthy Snack #4: Quinoa Pudding
One of my personal favorites is the very simple Quinoa pudding recipe included at the bottom of this article. It is high in protein and fiber but really tastes great as an alternative to a sugar-filled dessert. Give it a try and tell me what you think!
Other Healthy Options
And don't stop there...there are a ton of options to explore.
- Whole grain crackers and peanut/nut butter to dip them in
- Mini hummus containers
- Yogurt Parfait with sliced fruit and granola layered in a glass
- Cheese sticks wrapped with a piece of deli meat and lettuce
- Piece of whole grain toast, nut butter and banana
- Smoothies where you can throw a scoop of protein powder, lots of frozen fruit, and low fat plain yogurt
- Keep it colorful by including snap peas, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cantelope chunks, and blueberries.
The important thing overall is to make sure that you are watching out for your kids' nutritional needs. They don't know enough to do it on their own and depend on their parents to steer them right. Take the time to ensure they have a great breakfast and that the foods they eat for the rest of the day are going to help them succeed. Give them variety so they don't get bored with their snacks. The ideas and recipes here can help make a real difference in your child's nutrition.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 cups apple juice
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
salt to taste
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1) Place quinoa in a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Allow to drain, then place quinoa in a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pan with lid, lower heat, and allow to simmer until all water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.
2) Mix in apple juice, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Cover pan and allow to simmer for 15 minutes longer. Stir in vanilla extract. Serve warm.
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Total Fat: 1.9g
Total Carbs: 42.6g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7g
Recipe from AllRecipes.com.