With the mad rush from one activity to another, the time to prepare healthy meals and snacks can be few and far between. I thought that my nutritional insight and love for food would make feeding my kids a breeze, but I was wrong! Even when you’re armed with nutrition knowledge and healthy eating tips, it’s far from easy. The best tactic for healthy on-the-go eating is to plan ahead. If there is a road trip, or a particularly busy few days on the horizon, stock up on nutritious on-the-go foods instead of turning to the convenience of junk food. You might consider some of the simple strategies that I’ve implemented for providing easily accessible healthy snacks for my own on-the-go family.
Balanced meals are vital to a healthy eating plan, however, recent USDA data reveals that 24% of total caloric intake comes from snacks, making them a valuable tool to work essential nutrients into your family’s diet. I’m willing to bet that many of you have a child who stands with the refrigerator open, waiting for a snack to magically appear? Well, the answer here is accessibility: try creating a snack spot in the fridge with items that are easy to grab and eat. An oh-so-easy way to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption is to pre-cut fruits and vegetables, and place them in the snack spot with a container of protein packed sweet or savory “dip”. What kid (or grown-up) doesn’t love to dip?? Here are a few of our family favorites:
- Hummus, served with carrots and sugar snap peas. Hummus is made from garbanzo beans, a legume which is a nutrition powerhouse packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber.
- Greek Yogurt “Ranch Dip”, served with cucumbers, carrots, or cauliflower. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, simply mix with Ranch seasoning.
- Greek Yogurt is also great as a sweet fruit dip try adding a little honey and vanilla, cocoa powder or cinnamon.
- Apple slices, bananas and celery are all scrumptious when dipped in nut butter, which is loaded with vitamins, protein and healthy fats!
- An alternative to dipping is to “skewer” fruit and a protein (try green grapes & chunks of cheese or turkey)
What about non-perishables to keep in your “survival stash” for road trips or when shuttling between activities? Here are a few items that are on both my “easy-to-pack and nutritious list” and my kids “yes, mom I will actually eat that” list:
- Trail Mix: I like to let them combine their own nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, and perhaps a few chocolate chips, to make their own blends.
- Popcorn: 3.5 cups of this low-cal snack provides 4 grams of fiber! Air-pop then sprinkle with your topping of choice such as kelp powder, nutritional yeast, Parmesan cheese with a little lemon zest, chili powder or cinnamon.
- Rice Cakes or Pretzels: These are portable and easy to keep fresh, take a small container of nut butter for on the road dipping!
- Squeezable packets of pureed fruit are fun for kids! While a piece of whole fruit would be the better choice, purees can contribute vitamins, minerals and fiber, look for brands with no added sugar!
- Packaged roasted seaweed snacks are bursting with vitamins, minerals and flavor and most are surprisingly low-sodium.
- Fruit leather or strips are usually equivalent to ½ serving of fruit, just be sure it doesn’t contain added sugar.
- Snack Bars, there is no shortage of options here, just proceed with caution because many of them are loaded with junk. Examine the nutrition facts panel before you buy and look for options that are low in sugar, but high in fiber and protein.
- Jerky is low-calorie and high protein, but be careful of sodium levels.
- There are also lots of sneaky ways to make kid favorites healthier without them knowing the difference! You might try:
- Substituting part of the flour with ground flaxseed, when making muffins or cookies, to add fiber and omega-3’s.
- Making your own frozen smoothie bars by blending fruit, yogurt, protein powder, some greens if you like, a dash of 100% fruit juice if needed, then freeze in a paper cup with a popsicle stick.
If the sneaking it in strategy isn’t for you, another way to help kids get the nutrients they need is to add a multivitamin to supplement what might be missing from their diet. Rainbow Light is my go-to brand for kids since they're easy to digest and come in single serve packets for on the go. I also like their powders, which can be mixed into yogurt, smoothies or applesauce.
And then there is the challenge of advertising aimed at children and peer influence, my strategy here is to give them a little of what they ask for now and again and you’ll have better luck getting them to eat healthier snacks the rest of the time. I recall a school event for which my daughter was insisting we make Rice Krispie treats, not exactly the healthiest choice ….so I complied with a twist, I cut them into tiny squares and alternated them on a kebab with strawberries; let’s just say they were an instant hit!
If your family is as busy as mine you’ll relate to feeling challenged to keep your kids eating healthy, while trying to maintain your own sanity. But if you plan ahead, there’s a good chance they will be able to eat healthy even when they are on the go!
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.