After-school Dashboard Dining: Healthier on-the-go Meals and Snacks for Busy Families
As a registered holistic nutritionist, I routinely hear parents’ battle cries for help feeding their kids healthy foods. It’s not easy to work full time, hustle kids to and from after-school activities, and prepare nutritious meals.
While we have abundant opportunities to eat real food, it often seems easier to choose junky processed food. Unfortunately, these unhealthy choices make it harder for our kids to focus in school, keep their energy up, and get a good night’s sleep.
Here are some simple meal and snack ideas to help parents tackle these dilemmas. I’ve also included a few smart supplement suggestions.
Better dashboard dining and other quick nutritional wins
The following tips will help boost the quality of your family’s diet, without requiring a big chunk of your time.
Try this brain-boosting breakfast hack: Start their day off with scrambled eggs and oats, a protein smoothie or a veggie omelet. Getting adequate protein in the morning helps children win the day with mental focus and a happy mood.
Use this fast fiber fix: We all lack fiber, especially the kids who won’t eat any vegetables. Soluble fiber is especially important to nourish the good gut probiotics, which supports good digestion and immune function. The solution? Add a scoop of gluten-free Sunfiber to just about any food, and you’re rocking and rolling! Unlike some fiber supplements which turn into gloppy messes when mixed with liquid, Sunfiber blends invisibly into foods without changing their taste, aroma or texture. And because it’s truly regulating, it helps with both occasional constipation and occasional diarrhea.
Keep Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil handy in your kitchen: Malaysian palm oil is preferred by many food manufacturers because it adds a creamy texture, it’s naturally free of trans fats, and it’s responsibly produced so it won’t harm wildlife or the rain forests. Palm oil is heart-healthy and good brain food. While using this certified sustainable oil for home cooking is a relatively new thing, it is catching on. Unlike coconut oil, palm oil has a neutral flavor so it’s far more versatile.
Try this for better dashboard dining: Even if you eat in the car, the food can be nutritious especially when you prep snacks ahead of time so that you can grab and go on the fly or have at the ready when the kids come home. Instead of chips, pop a bag of non-GMO Tiny but Mighty Microwave popcorn. Replace candy bars with Luna bars. Energize your kids with these high-performance snacks: cut up peppers with hummus; smoothies with bananas, cherries, wild blueberries, spinach, cocoa powder and almond milk (served in a to-go cup); apple slices with Smart Balance peanut butter; or half an avocado sprinkled with sea salt.
Here’s help for kids who are sleeping poorly: Tart cherry juice blended with sparkling water makes a natural melatonin mocktail that helps induce sleep. A simple and safe amino acid supplement called Suntheanine also helps improve sleep quality. It’s hormone-free, not addictive and won’t cause drowsiness the next day.
Picky eater rehab: Embrace smoothies! Adding ingredients to make them “healthy” like bananas, greens and cocoa powder will deliver a sweet and nutritious boost to your child’s day. Try introducing one or two new foods in a snack so your child won’t feel overwhelmed with a meal-sized portion. Give different versions of a food a whirl: Broccoli that is raw, steamed, grilled or roasted makes for some nutrient-rich variety that appeals to all palates.
Include your kids in the meal planning and preparation process. Ask each child to choose one or two meals for the week out of a cookbook, so there is variety with meals. Make it clear that not everyone in the family will be happy with every meal, but everyone has to take no-thank-you bites. Involving them with all aspects of menu planning and preparation, even if it’s just stirring something in a bowl, will help them to enjoy real food even more and give them confidence in the kitchen.
Whether you have a picky eater at home or just struggle with figuring out how to feed your family healthy food, hopefully these tactics will be helpful. All of us as parents are doing our best with what we have, right? You’ve got this!