Heart-Healthy Fuel for Your Family
The change in seasons often gives way to changes in our daily activities and patterns, especially from winter to spring. If you have a family with children, of any age, you’ll know that the transition from winter to warmer months comes with schedules packed with sports and other activities that sometimes disrupt regular meal-time routines.
Eating healthy can be challenging for busy families, but with a little planning, you can ensure that your tots and teens will be fueled for sport practices after school and through a summer filled with on-the-go activities.
Research shows that children who eat meals with their families tend to have high diet quality. That is, they are more likely to eat vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Although busy days might mean more 'on-the-go' meals, you can still make a plan for most meals to be structured during the week. Designating one meal or certain days of the week for family meals will not only connect your family, but also keep everyone’s healthy eating habits in check. Breakfast might be a good meal to start.
Tips for a Healthy Breakfast
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet many children leave the home without or eat a breakfast that is insufficient for their growing bodies’ needs. The best bet for breakfast should include a source of protein and whole grain. Protein helps children stay strong and focused until lunch.
Choose lean proteins such as:
- An egg or egg whites
- Slice of lean turkey deli meat or Canadian bacon
- A container of low-fat greek or regular yogurt
- String cheese
- Peanut butter
Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber and help to sustain energy levels and curb hunger as they digest more slowly. Some good choices include:
- Whole grain ready-to-eat cereals
- Whole grain English muffins or bagels, and whole grain pancake mixes
Don’t forget to squeeze in a fruit or vegetable. Try adding diced peppers or other veggies in an egg, or adding berries to cereal or yogurt.
Get Organized and Stock Up
Get organized the night before for smooth preparation.
- Get out the pan for pancakes or eggs or the blender for smoothies.
- Prepare muffin or waffle mix the night before so it’s ready in the morning.
- Try soaking oatmeal in water or low-fat milk overnight, warm in the morning and add additional milk or yogurt with fruit—done! Keep it simple.
For the days when there is no time, stock your pantry with whole grain ready-to-eat cereals. Keep fresh fruit (such as bananas, apples, oranges) and single-pack yogurts available in the fridge.
Easy Breakfast Recipes and Meal Ideas
Here are some recipes to get your started
Makes 12 muffins
- 6 eggs (can use egg whites or combination of egg whites plus eggs)
- ½ cup low-fat or skim milk
- Optional ingredients:
- ¾ cup chopped/shredded zucchini
- ¼ cup chopped bell peppers
- ¼ cup reduced-fat shredded cheese
- 1 Tbsp onions, pepper or dill to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 12-cup muffin tin with non-fat cooking spray.
Beat eggs and milk; add optional ingredients, if desired.
Portion mixture evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set. Cool on rack for 5 minutes and remove from cups.
Tip: These can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Quickly re-warm in the microwave in the morning. Or, individually wrap the muffins when cool and freeze for up to one month.
Layer low-fat greek yogurt with whole grain cereal in a glass. Top with fruit and 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds.
Fruit Pocket Tart
Fill half of a whole grain pocket bread with 1 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter and sliced strawberries (or substitute any other sliced fruit).
Healthy Snacks for All-day Fuel
Like breakfast, having a plan for snacks will also help with keeping kids healthy and fueled, especially if they are going straight from school to a sporting game or practice. A good snack provides a quality carbohydrate -think whole-grain, vegetable, or fruit- for quick energy and a protein for a satisfied belly until the next meal. Consider these healthy options:
- Half peanut butter or almond butter sandwiches with sliced fruit or natural fruit jam
- Sliced deli turkey and/or reduced-fat cheese rolled in a whole grain wrap or tortilla and cut into 1-inch slices for easy finger food
- Low-fat string cheese and mini-pretzels
- Cut up veggies with ¼ cup hummus
- Make your own trail mix using whole grain cereal (like Kashi Heart to Heart), almonds or other nuts, dried fruit and mini-chocolate chips. Portion into small single serving containers or bags for grab-and-go.
- Energy bars are also ok to have on hand. Look for those with at least 5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and less than 10g of sugar.
- Apples, oranges, bananas, pears, paired with yogurt, string cheese or nuts
Tips for Healthy Snacking
Many food companies have come out with individual serving size items that are easy to grab on the go. Look for single serving peanut butter, hummus, nuts/trail mix, or whole grain crackers.
Remember to keep your kids hydrated. Water and low-fat milk are the best option. Let your child pick out their own water bottle to carry throughout the day. If you have a cooler, pack cartons of low-fat milk or low-fat chocolate milk to be included in the snack.
Teaching heart-healthy eating habits begins at home, at any age and will help keep your kids healthy and fueled for the busy months ahead.
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