I know that a lot of you out there are busy parents like me who want to provide the best for your kids but need some shortcuts on how to do it fast and well. Which is why I’m thrilled to bring you this post from nutritionist and Dr. Oz contributor Kate Geagan. She’s sharing everything from her favorite kid breakfast and snack ideas to the anatomy of a healthy packed lunch.
And please don’t forget, Kate’s going to be sharing even more of her wisdom during our live facebook chat on the Clif Kid facebook wall this Wednesday, September 18th at 9am PST/12 pm EST. It’s all a part of the Clif Kid Parents Series and there’s going to be tons of great information shared, the opportunity to chat with dad and olympic champion Jonny Mosley, and prizes too! Hope you can join me then to chat!
There’s a wonderful expression that the English have: sorted. Properly pronounced more like “sore-tid”, it’s a rather brilliant shorthand for “Why yes, I’ve got that covered”. Figured out. Taken care of.
Which brings me to how we feed our kids during back to school time. I know that many of us are on a quest to find reasonable shortcuts that help our children enjoy good nutrition, but offer fresh food ideas they will love. Our goals are simple: to give our child high-quality building blocks for energy and focus. To power them through learning, play, and after school activities. To perhaps remind them a bit of the tastes from home. And to keep it all rather sane and simple. Is that such a tall order?
To help, here are 5 Essentials, your step by step guide, to get this key aspect of your child’s back to school routine “sorted” in no time.
Start with a High Quality Brekkie.
Ok, so I’ve moved continents for another term I love. But the best building blocks are minimally processed, whole foods that look as close to the source as possible. This is because their whole nutritional package is intact, providing high quality calories filled with vitamins, minerals, antixodants, and other compounds your child needs to thrive. An ideal breakfast should contain a mixture of complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and protein for stable blood sugar and focus until snack or lunch time.
Ultra-fast options in under 5 minutes include:
- Toasted 100% whole grain waffle slathered with 1 Tbsp. nut (or seed) butter and sliced pear.
- A cup of reduced-fat cottage cheese or greek yogurt topped with whole grain cereal, sliced fresh fruit and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
- A whole grain English muffin or mini pita filled with a scrambled (or a hard boiled sliced) egg and sliced avocado (have a bigger eater? Add some salsa and shredded cheese).
- “Yoatmeal”: the night before, mix 1/3 cup of 100% rolled oats into a cup of lowfat greek yogurt, along with a handful of frozen raspberries or blueberries. Refrigerate. Enjoy a muesli like “yoatmeal” in the morning.
Help Your Child Drink Up.
The First Lady just launched her new “Drink Up” campaign which centers on the myriad health benefits that come from drinking water. I couldn’t agree more: with the latest NHANES report finding that virtually no demographic of children in the US comes close to meeting the Institute of medicines water guidelines, this is an essential step to making sure your child is feeling (and acting) their best.
Plus, it helps support a healthy body weight. For an economical and eco-friendly option, pack a reusable BPA free water bottle in your child’s backpack so they can stay well hydrated all day. It’s one of the best lifetime habits you can instill. For more on the topic, check out my recent post here.
Strike a Balance at Lunch.
Here’s what the lunchbox should look like:
- Fill 1/2 with fruits and vegetables. Play with a mix of fresh, seasonal produce paired with time saving dried, dehydrated or even frozen fruits and vegetables: Fruits and veggies are rich in powerful nutrients your child needs, such potassium, fiber, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants. (Tip: Add a healthy dip like marinara or spiced hummus to boost the fun factor).
- Fill the remaining half with equal parts whole grains and lean, clean protein. By “clean” I mean organic turkey or chicken breast, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, edamame, hummus or tofu cubes, or even last nights leftovers tucked into a sandwich with some salad dressing. Try to minimize red meats and processed or cured meats like bacon or sausage.
- To drink: Pack a carton of organic lowfat milk or kefir, or an enriched non dairy alternative like soy or almond. Or that reusable water bottle works great, too.
- Skip the excess sugary treats. There’s no need to do away with the sweet stuff entirely, but it’s a good idea to keep sweet treats small during school time. Too much sugar can cause blood sugar to crash and energy and mood to dip-setting them (and you) up for a brutal afternoon. A mini-cookie for smaller kids, or a whole grain cookie like a fig newton if you must. My own secret with my kids for school time sweets is a medjool date – trust me, it’s like Nature’s cookie dough.
Go Natural and Organic When You Can.
Because of their small size and rapid growth rates, children are especially vulnerable to potentially harmful pesticides, or hormones and antibiotics in conventional foods like meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. So go organic when possible: it’s better for your kids, and better for the planet. Going natural and organic also protects you from things like high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial colors, dyes or preservatives.
Fight Afternoon Hunger With Clean Energy Snacks
Healthy snacking provide a much needed bridge between meals for tiny tummies and helps deliver the calories and nutrients kids need for energy and focus as the day drags on. In my house (and maybe yours) snacks need to be planned and packed in the morning, as there’s no returning home until dinner time on some days! Look for a snack that has between 150-200 calories.
Here are some of my favorites that have strong nutrition merit but stand up to rough housing in backpacks and fluctuating temps. Simply stow and go.
- Nuts or nut butters packets (there are seed butter packets and allergy free butters too)
- Clif Kids Bars – These are especially convenient if your child is heading to an active after school activity, where they will need carbohydates to adequately fuel their muscles and mind.
- DIY Trail Mix - Have a row of several containers for this so kids can customize-pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereal, dried cherries or blueberries, almonds and walnuts, even a small amount of 70% cacao chips and toasted coconut to make if fun and appealing.
- Roasted Chick Peas - Look for these crunchy and oh so addictive (in a good way) snacks in the natural food aisle of your grocery store. There are many delicious brands on the market these days that come with a variety of flavors-from middle easy spices to Mediterranean inspired blends. My kids love them. You can also use these MPMK recipes to make your own at home.
Feeling sorted yet? I hope so. I also hope you’ll come and join Steph, myself, Zina Harrington and skiing stud Jonny Moseley for more chatter and tips on our upcoming Clif Kid Parenting Series September 18th 9 am PST/12 pm EST on the Clif Kid Facebook wall! See you there.