If your family is anything like mine, you find yourself hustling home from work, driving to pick kids up at their afterschool practices then leaving again to get them to their next commitments. On many occasions, we just can’t sit down to a family meal.
That’s unfortunate because research shows that adolescents who have meals with their families eat more fruits and vegetables and get more of the key nutrients that they need. (1) But let’s face it; with so many opportunities available to kids, families are on the go now more, making it harder to ensure everyone has healthy, nutritious meals and snacks.
During the afternoon time crunch (or all day weekend events!), it’s easy to reach for pre-packaged convenience foods like chips, candy and baked goods, but don’t. They provide a quick sugar kick, but then send kids crashing during their sports practice, dance session or music lesson.
The best way to avoid this is to plan ahead, buying or pre-bagging small portions of healthy snacks. Now there are even lunch sacks with built in ice packs that make packing snacks easier.
HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE HEALTHY SNACK OPTIONS FOR KIDS ON THE GO:
- Cut up fruits and vegetables and pack in small, easy-to-carry containers.
- Choose hearty fruits like apples, oranges or bananas that are portable and won’t get smashed.
- Buy cheese sticks or cut up cheese in bite size pieces that store easily in small containers.
- Pair single serve hummus, peanut butter and other dips with cut fruit (think apples and peanut butter), whole grain crackers, pita bread or pretzels
- Stash granola bars and/or protein bars in your car (but avoid chocolate or other coatings that might melt and leave you with a big mess).
- Make your own trail mix with nuts and dried fruit.
- Freeze tubes of lowfat, low sugar yogurts to make a great yogurt popsicle or let them thaw a bit for a cool yogurt treat
- Bag up small portions of whole grain, low sugar cereal.
- Fill reusable water bottles with water and keep a small stash of water bottles in the trunk for those just in case days.
WHEN YOU’RE ON THE GO AND NEED TO EAT A MEAL OUT, FOLLOW THESE BASIC RULES TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES:
- Whole grain, whole wheat breads, rolls and pita.
- Leaner cuts of meat like turkey, chicken breast, and lean roast beef.
- Lower fat cheeses like mozzarella, provolone –and ask to “go light” on the cheese.
- Mustards, ketchup, relish. Use rich sauces and spreads (like mayo) sparingly.
- Pizza, pasta and sandwiches loaded with veggies and lean meats.
- Salads light on dressing or dressing on the side.
- Share the heavier food and add a salad or veggie as a side.
Pick foods labeled:
- Steamed, broiled, baked, roasted.
Watch for foods with these words:
- Fried, buttered, breaded, sautéed.
Lay the foundation for healthy eating, even if you’re on the go…and make it a family meal in the car, or at the restaurant. What’s most important is that you’re offering healthy, nutritious foods to your kids as much as you can.
1. Larson NI., Neumark-Sztainer D., Hannan PJ, Story M. Family meals during adolescence are associated with higher diet quality and healthful meal patterns during young adulthood. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007; 107(9): 1502-1510.