Many families that I work with who want to help their kids eat healthier tell me they struggle because they feel that they are always on the go. Schedules don’t seem to accommodate healthy meals or healthy habits. A number of children in middle or high school that I see in practice eat breakfast early in the morning, often around 6:00 am and are scheduled for lunch at 10:30 in the morning. They then don’t have another opportunity to eat until after school at 3:00 pm or later, and many times they are going from school to another activity. How do we instill healthy eating under these circumstances where time is limited and children are starving?
First, working to avoid long periods without eating is important. When we get too hungry, our brains want fast energy, and so we crave, and thus eat, simple carbohydrate snacks that are either high in sugar or high in salt. Advocate for your child with the school to allow him to have a snack sometime in the afternoon, perhaps at 1:00 pm or 2:00 pm. You could send your child with a protein snack or a healthy fat. For example strips of cooked chicken or nitrate-free deli meat slices, celery sticks with almond butter or guacamole, light cheese sticks, peanut butter sandwich with apple slices instead of jelly, shelf stable organic milk, or bags of nuts like almonds. If your child’s school does not allow nuts for snacks, you can use sunbutter or pumpkin seed butter as an alternative to nut butters. Pumpkin seed butter and pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, as well as magnesium, zinc, antioxidants, and a variety of forms of vitamin E.
All of these snacks listed above, can be prepared in bags over the weekend or when you have time, so they are ready to grab for the entire busy week ahead. I also prepare the kids favorite vegetables in grab and go snack bags to make the snacks easy and accessible for use throughout the week. As you prepare for the week ahead, consider portable protein that makes an excellent grab and go dinner.
When I cook any protein, I am sure to make a lot. If I cook up chicken, I will use 2-3 packages or organic chicken breasts or thighs and a package of legs. Chicken legs are very portable when eating a dinner between school and practice or music lessons. Shrimp is wonderfully portable if you cook a large portion when you make it. Consider slicing leftover meat, chicken or pork in easy to eat “ﬁngers” and in portioned bags for grabbing easily.
We often think fruit is hard to take, but quartering an orange or using an apple corer/ slicer is very quick. Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries travel easily–although strawberries can break down if left in a bag too long, and may do better in tupperware.
We often don’t think about protein or vegetables and fruits as a snack, and this mindset leads to us eat “snack foods” which are often processed crackers or cookies. By changing that mindset and planning ahead, we can have snacks just as quickly on the go that are healthful and ﬁlling.
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