Sometimes it feels like a free-for-all around here with the snacking. And sometimes it’s that way with meals, too. I am on and off the meal planning wagon in a vicious cycle. And especially over the summer, just as soon as the kids are done with breakfast they want a snack. Then another snack. Make the foot traffic in the kitchen STAHP.
We just had a little epiphany in this family after hauling the whole crew into the GIANT Food Store in Harrisburg, PA to meet with their nutritionist. Did you know you can do this? Select stores have a nutritionist on staff that you can schedule individual consultations with, and they offer a variety of free classes filled with tips as well. HIGHLY recommend doing this if you happen to be in the same boat I’m in.
All four of us, my husband, daughter (11) and son (8), met with Shanna the nutritionist to try to get a handle on what we’re eating. The first thing she did was ask us, “What are you eating?” Ah, where would you like us to start, Shanna? And breakfast was the answer, followed by lunch and dinner. We went through every meal and what each of us eats and she pretty quickly identified what ails us. More on that below.
The Food Pyramid has been replaced with Choose My Plate, which I’m pretty sure I’ve seen before but I’m an 80s kid and that pyramid is like Pluto: it’s real to me. I have to shift my thinking a little bit about what our meal plates should really look like. This website has a ton of helpful info including ideas for each food group and LOTS of tips.
After giving us the basics on what we should aim for with each meal and snack, we dove into what we need to be doing differently to put an end to the snackathon and spruce up our eating habits. Here are my biggest, most practical takeaways.
3 Tips I Learned From My GIANT Nutritionist
You need protein with every meal and snack.
This is my #1 biggest takeaway. We were pretty much ‘diagnosed’ with lack of protein which is why my son never seems full after his breakfast waffle and wants to snack all. day. long. Eggs, peanut butter, breakfast sausage, and even nuts are all good options to add a little protein to your plate.
I often fall into the trap of thinking ‘meat’ when I think about protein, but there are tons of high-protein snacks that are delicious. These roasted chickpeas are SO good. I like the Honey Roasted variety.
And if you’re looking at that Choose Your Plate thinking, ‘I don’t do a veggie and fruit for most meals,’ don’t worry. I don’t either and when I asked about that I was told that you can do either or, but whatever you choose should take up half of your plate.
Scroll down for some really good snack ideas that incorporate protein!
Half your grocery cart should be fruits and veggies.
If half your plate should be fruits and veggies, so should have of your grocery cart. I mean, DUH. But I never thought about it like this. I’m going to keep a better watch when I’m shopping and make sure we have the healthy goodies in the house that we need to create well-balanced meals.
One of my gripes was that when my kids ask for certain foods, I have to stop what I’m doing and prepare them. With two in braces this is especially true: they can’t just bite into an apple. Mama has to cut that up. The nutritionist assured me that frozen fruits and veggies are just as good, and pre-packaged fruits are now often packed in their own juice as opposed to sugary syrup and kids can easily grab-and-go with those.
Change what you think meals should look like.
I do generally plan a well-balanced dinner (except when I’ve fallen off the meal-planning wagon but let’s not talk about that right now). We do a meat, grain, and veggie. I think I have breakfast pretty well ironed out and everyone likes eggs of one variety or another plus some fruit. Easy enough. Lunch is something I struggle with. Mac n cheese, leftovers, wing it, wing it, wing it.
The nutritionist told me to stop thinking that meals have to be 3 items on a round plate. Think more like a Bento box, and put some items together that make a balanced meal full of goodies you love. That might include fruit, a cheese stick, some nuts, chickpeas, and a couple of pepper strips. That sounds DELICIOUS to me and pretty easy too – no cooking!
I think I got the meals down pat but if you’re anything like me, getting the kids to choose the right snacks to actually fill them up is the biggest challenge. The nutritionist made us a go-to list of ideas that I’m sharing below.Hope these tips are as helpful to you as they have been to me!
Well-Balanced Snack Ideas Kids Will Love
First, the formula: A good snack is:
fruit/veggie/or grain + protein/or healthy fat
You have to have both sides of the equation in order to make it healthy and satisfying. Here are a few ideas we’ve been using:
- Apple + cheese
- Crackers + peanut butter
- Celery + peanut butter
- Fruit cup + cheese
- Sargento Balanced Breaks (pictured above)
- Greek yogurt + fruit
- Protein granola bar (look for the boxes that say ‘protein’ on them!)
- Tortilla chips and guacamole
- Mini pancakes + peanut butter + blueberries
- Roasted chickpeas + pepper strips
If you have other suggestions, leave them for me in the comments!