It’s back-to-school for most kids next week.
I know when I was in school, I didn’t always eat breakfast. I’ll also admit that I went through a PopTart and Eggo waffle phase. If you told me to eat eggs with veggies and fruit on the side when I was 10, I probably would have laughed at you. We always had a balanced dinner together as a family, but breakfast (and waking up in general) was a bit of a struggle at our house.
Everyone has heard that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It really is, especially for kids. They need to be awake and ready to learn and play all day, so their brains need to be well fueled.
Did you know that the brain only makes up 2% of the body’s weight, but it demands 20% of our energy needs? Glucose is the brain’s main fuel, so kids (and adults!) need a source of carbohydrate to keep their brain working well all day.
Eating a high-quality source of carbohydrate paired with protein, fat, and fiber in the morning can give you the energy you need in the morning at school or work. An example could be a smoothie made with banana (carbohydrate), Greek yogurt (protein), and chia seeds (fat + fiber), or scrambled eggs (protein) mixed with bell peppers and spinach (fiber), topped with avocado (fat) and a small sweet potato or piece of fruit on the side (carbohydrate).
Fueling the brain throughout the day with meals and snacks, as needed, is just as important as breakfast, though. Kids are growing and always on the move learning and staying active, so they have high energy needs!
Keep in mind the same nutrients for snacks:
- Carbohydrate – fruit, sweet potato, squash, other starchy foods
- Protein – meat, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts (also a source of fat)
- Fat – avocado, nuts/nut butter, full-fat dairy, olives, oils
- Fiber – plant foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts
For a snack, aim to always include a source of carbohydrate and protein, and try to include fat and fiber as well. Snacks can help give kids that extra energy boost between meals, so they don’t get too cranky from being hungry. They are great for mid-morning or mid-afternoon energy drops. If your child is starving after-school, plan for a balanced snack rather than a pantry raid, which may lead to overeating and no appetite for dinner. It’s also great to have a snack if they are playing sports after school.
At a kids’ fun day yesterday, we talked about eating the rainbow. Fruits and vegetables come in all colors of the rainbow from the different antioxidant pigments. Each offer different health benefits, so it’s important to aim for eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables throughout the week. Just sticking to carrots and broccoli is boring, and you’ll miss out on tons of plant-based compounds in other plant foods.
The snack we made was Rainbow Fruit Kabobs. I think I was the only one to make a full kabob before digging in to the juicy fruit in front of us.
The fruit we used were:
- Cherry tomatoes (yes, they’re a fruit)
- Red grapes
I cut up the fruit into small pieces large enough to place on a kabob stick and put them in separate bowls. The kids then put each fruit on a kabob stick in the color of the rainbow and nibbled right off the stick! You could try other fruit, such as strawberries, watermelon, oranges, pineapple, or plums. Pairing this with a slice of cheese or Greek yogurt for protein and fat would create a delicious, balanced snack!
Other after-school snack ideas include:
- Raw Veggies + Dip – Chop up raw veggies like carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes and dip in guacamole and hummus.
- Banana Peanut Butter Sandwiches – Slice a banana. Stick peanut butter on one banana slices, and top it with another banana slice for a peanut butter sandwich. You could also try almond butter or another nut butter.
- Classic Ants on a Log – Cover celery with peanut butter and top with raisins or other dried fruit.
- Hardboiled egg + 1/4 avocado + peach/plum
- Grapes + cheese – slice of grass-fed cheese, or cheese stick
- Homemade trail mix – mix different raw nuts with unsweetened dried fruit
- Chia seed pudding with berries
- Apple + almond butter + cinnamon – Cut an apple in slices, sprinkle cinnamon on top, and dip in nut butter.
- Yogurt/kefir + fruit + chia seeds
What’s your favorite after-school or after-work snack?