I know my kids aren’t the only hungry students getting off the school bus. It’s 3 p.m., at least three hours since the kids have eaten lunch. Welcome back to the daily routine of after-school activities, homework and finding time for a healthy meal somewhere in there.
Active children need to refuel to enhance their performance and lessen their chance of injury. Fruit and vegetable plates, peanut butter and jelly on whole grain bread, and apples slices with cheese are healthy grab-and-go choices that can be prepared in advance. Salty snacks or sugary sports drinks can lower kids’ energy levels and work against the health benefits they get by taking part in physical activities. Avoid drive-through windows and convenience foods that are tempting time savers.
Researchers found that kids who play sports are more likely to eat fast food, drink soda and consume more total calories. This is due to poor meal planning and unhealthy eating habits of their parents. Packing a post-practice recovery food (whole grain crackers and cheese, homemade trail mix, fresh fruit, etc.) can help reduce the temptation to fill up on cheeseburgers, fried chicken, fries and ice cream.
It’s our responsibility as parents to find the time to plan ahead and provide healthy choices for our growing children. Set a healthy example by stocking your refrigerators with foods that have short shelf lives but are long on nutritional value, like fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. These are the foods that help our children thrive.
At least once a month, make it a point to expose your kids to a new fruit or vegetable. You can do this by having fun with your kids and getting them involved in making snacks. Kids love to build, so try assembling fruit or vegetable kebabs together.
The more involved you can get your kids to choose healthy, the more you will see them making healthier choices on their own. What we fuel our bodies with today will either enhance or hinder our lives tomorrow.