School Snack Hacks for Healthy, Happy, and Better-Focused Kids

1 Sep

kidsnacksstarbucks

by Dr. Cora Rivard

Kids are back to school, and as parents everywhere breathe a sigh of relief- we also look ahead to doing what we can to ensure that they have a great year, which includes getting the most benefit from their education and extracurricular pursuits. As both a parent and a naturopathic doctor, this is a prime interest! This blog will highlight some snack ideas for keeping your child in good form for paying attention, feeling more relaxed and happy, and supporting more positive behavior.

Balancing a healthy supply of complex carbohydrates from whole grains, high power fruits and vegetables, and good sources of protein help keep your child consistently fueled throughout the day, without the crashes in blood sugar spurred by many popular processed snacks, which can negatively impact mood, behavior and ability to focus. Serve with water, or plain milk (skip the too-heavily-sweetened chocolate, strawberry (and I can’t believe this is even an option in elementary schools- coffee milk flavors.) See below:

  • cubes of cheese with grapes and whole grain crackers
  • slices of apple with dipping container of sunflower seed butter
  • strips of baked or rotisserie chicken with pita, and carrot sticks
  • “ants on a log”: celery sticks that your child can spread sunflower seed butter on, and then sprinkle with raisins*. (Due to the high glycemic value of dried fruit, particularly raisins, it is best not to offer raisins as a sole snack, but in combination with other healthy snacks to balance them out, they are very nutritious.)
  • plain yogurt+ fresh fruit, pureed or whole, or apple sauce of your choice. You may sweeten with a touch of honey if needed. Pack in an insulated container for school snacks. For drinkable yogurt, simply throw these ingredients in a blender with small amounts of milk until you get the consistency that you desire. This is a much cheaper way to create yogurt and yogurt smoothies, and far more healthy than the sugary products in the store.
  • Zucchini, carrot, and yogurt multigrain muffins recipe
  • Homemade nut-free granola bars- you control how much sugar to add. Great option that can be made and portioned ahead of time. The following is a good example: Nut-free Healthy Granola Bars recipe
  • edamame and cubes of cheese
  • Pear and cheese pinwheels recipe
  • carrot sticks and hummus

There are many great reusable packs to keep snacks cool- I am partial to the following foldable, freezer lunch bag which has served us well (lots more interesting colors and patterns on Amazon):
PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag with Zip Closure, Black 

Stainless steel “Lunch Bots” are an excellent, “bento box” design for snacks and lunches, and are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. They fit well in the PackIt Freezable Lunch bags.

The following snacks are marketed as “healthy,”  but are surprisingly not very healthy:

Juice: Many juices are mixed with things like concentrated grape juice (which is just sugar) as well as corn syrup and artificial colorings. And even real juice from organic fruit is still very sugary and devoid of fiber and other nutrients once present in the whole fruit. Juice packs on the sugar and promotes cavities, just like soda. Whole fruit is always a better choice- by itself or within a smoothie.

“Diet” or processed and marketed “sugar free” offerings– these use a range of indigestible simple carbohydrates which interfere with focus, upset stomachs, and may cause people to over-consume at a later time.

*Raisins or dried cranberries (don’t use alone as the sole snack because they are high glycemic foods/sugary. However, they can be great as a flavoring added to something healthier- like granola bars or oatmeal)

Fruit rollups– sugar, no fiber

Processed yogurt and yogurt smoothie cups for kids- loaded with sugar!

“Snackables” and other similar processed foods- loaded with preservatives, artificial colorings, flavorings, sodium, sometimes MSG

Commercial granola bars and power bars-careful with these, some are good, but most are loaded with white sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavorings.

Tuna fish salad– unfortunately, tuna contains enough mercury to make eating it more than on occasion unsafe for the average weight adult, and therefore I would suggest that it is just not even worth it for children or pregnant women to consume it anymore. Better choices are to make salmon or chicken salads for lunch or as a snack with whole grain crackers or pita bread.

As you already know, there is a whole lot of marketing aimed squarely at your child for unhealthy and heavily processed snack foods. With a little planning, and the occasional preparation of “batch’ snacks and portioning ahead of time, you can make your own healthier, more cost effective snacks. And let your children get involved in preparations- you’ll be teaching them the nuts and bolts of putting together a healthy snack. You are your children’s best teacher- and maintaining their best health is one of the best gifts you can give!

*****

I love being a great resource for kids and families! For more information about my practice, or to schedule an initial consult online to discuss how to best support the wellness of your child with natural medicine techniques, please visit my website at: http://www.seasonsnatural.com

I am a specialist in naturopathic family healthcare, which involves an emphasis on drug-less, natural and supportive strategies to resolve common (and sometimes not-so-common) medical problems affecting children and adults. My philosophy is that this is not “alternative medicine,” but should instead be the standard of care as the first strategy employed for non-urgent health concerns before consideration of more invasive and risky procedures and medications.

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