From long school days to active sports and outdoor playtime, kids are busy. Keep them energized, fueled and focused with nutrient-rich, healthy food choices. Regular meals and snacks composed of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein will provide children with essential vitamins and minerals while also giving them the energy they need to keep their stamina up all day long.
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Start the Day Off Right
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is especially true for growing, busy children. Because whole grain breakfast cereals are a good source of complex carbohydrates, they provide lasting energy to keep kids satisfied throughout the morning. In addition, cereal is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, all necessary for healthy, growing bodies. Cheerios, for example, contain 3 grams of fiber per a 1-cup serving. In addition, a serving of whole grain Cheerios is a good source of iron, zinc, folate and vitamins A, B-6 and B-12. Aside from making sure your breakfast cereal is whole grain, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that you choose a cereal that has little to no added sugar and is trans and saturated fat-free. Top cereal with low-fat milk to provide your child with protein, calcium and vitamin D for strong muscles and bones.
Fruit for Snacks
Fruit makes for the perfect snack because it is quick, nutritious and provides an energy boost for any time of the day. Good choices include apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, melon or berries. Because fruit contains natural sugar, it will give kids a quick source of fuel, and fruit is also high in fiber ,which helps to fill them up and keep them satisfied. Kids younger than age 9 should aim for 1 to 1 1/2 cups of fruit per day, while 9- to 18-year-olds should get 1 1/2 to 2 cups per day. To give fruit more staying power, pair it with a healthy source of protein, such as string cheese or a few tablespoons of peanut butter.
Something to Sip On
A healthy combination of blended low-fat milk, yogurt and fruit provides an energy-packed snack or meal option for busy kids. The typical nutrient-rich smoothie contains 140 calories, 5 grams of muscle-building protein and 17 percent of your daily calcium needs per a 1-cup serving. To make a healthy smoothie, blend together 1 cup low-fat milk, 1/4 cup low-fat yogurt and 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit. Banana and berries are delicious fruits to use in smoothies. As a bonus, a smoothie can be a great on-the-go food for busy families.
Munch on Trail Mix
A homemade trail mix containing whole grain cereal, dried fruit and nuts provides an energy dense combination of complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein to fuel active children. Start with 1 cup of your child's favorite whole grain cereal: o's, squares and flakes work well. Next add a few tablespoons of dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries or cherries. Aside from providing sweetness, dried fruit will add some fiber, as 2 tablespoons of raisins contains 1 gram of filling fiber. Lastly, include a handful of nuts. Almonds, peanuts, walnuts or cashews are all good options. Nuts are a good source of protein. A 1-ounce serving of peanuts, for example, contains 7 grams of protein.