Anne Radcliffe: Dinner - It's Not Rocket Science


How to Fuel Active Kids - the Healthy Way!

Plus A Game to Make Smart Snacking Fun for Kids

How to Fuel Active Kids - the Healthy Way!

Summer means lots of active play for kids. This year, my six year-old son will begin his third year of soccer. He loves to run, and I love any sport requiring no special equipment besides a jock, cleats, and shin pads. But the thing that I don't love about soccer? The foods parents usually bring for the team as an after-practice snack when the kids are hot, sweaty, and in need of refueling.

Popsicles, granola bars loaded with chocolate chips with frosting on top, bags of chips, and sugary punch drinks are usually what sits in the coolers, waiting to be handed out. Or, in other words: sugar, sugar, sugar. These snacks are often cheap, artificially-flavoured, artificially-coloured, high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden empty calories.

Not the best fuel for hard-working growing little bodies.

So what's the problem with a little sugar, anyway?

We get a pleasurable rush from eating sugar that never tapers off, ensuring we never get bored of it. It affects our taste buds, our thoughts, and our behaviour. It's a major factor in childhood obesity, and it's a nutritional void.

According to Abby Langer, a registered dietician, kids need 5-7 servings each of fruit and vegetables every day. Kids need several different options to ensure they get their vitamins and minerals. People, she says, have evolved to not only eat a wide variety of foods—but to want and need to eat them, too.

But busy families may not have the time to wash and cut fruits and vegetables when there are barely 15 minutes between getting home and soccer practice.

It's easy to see why healthy eating can get pushed off as something to be done “later” instead of staying top priority, and it's how junk foods find an “in.”

Well, I’ll tell you a secret: healthier snacking is only as difficult as you want to make it.

Here's how to find more time to fuel your kids with fun, healthy snacks

  Make fruit containers do the hard work!

Berries and grapes come in hard-shell containers or bags that usually have slits or holes in them. Wash the produce straight in the container or the bag. Once washed, close it back up, give it a good shake to dry out, and tuck it straight into the cooler with a paper towel underneath to catch any drips.

  Prep ahead - in your fridge!

Not all items have a good shelf-life when pre-washed, but there are still many that do. Save yourself oodles of time by pre-washing and pre-cutting foods such as apples, carrots, celery. Treat cut apples with a little lemon juice to prevent browning, and keep celery and carrots in water to keep them moist and crisp.

  Take advantage of healthy, convenient pre-packaged snacks

If you don't have the time to prepare something yourself before heading out to a game or practice, a healthy substitute is Mott's Fruitsations FruitRockets and Mott’s Fruitsations +Veggies Fruit Rockets. These convenient pouches (which incidentally travel well in lunch bags and purses), are made from 100% fruit, come in 6 different flavours, are unsweetened and contain no artificial colours or flavours.

An important lesson we’re not teaching kids when we hand them a granola bar with 10 grams of sugar in it after soccer is that real fruit and vegetables have a natural sweetness that tastes awesome.

Both of these products contain no gluten or peanuts, which makes them inclusive for many children with food allergies and sensitivities, like my son.

  Rethink the snack!

Hard-working bodies need more than just carbohydrates - they also need protein for building muscles and satisfying their tummies. And yet, high-protein foods rarely make their way into the cooler! Buy lunch meats or cheese slices at the deli, and roll them up for a quick and satisfying snack.

  Put your pantry to better use!

Once or twice a month, stock up with pre-made dried goods to grab before the big game. In addition to dried fruit and vegetable chips, look for things like jerky and no-nut snackables like crunchy roasted chickpeas. Try whipping up a homemade trail mix made with popcorn, pretzels, dried fruit, coconut, seeds, and dried soybeans. It’s a nut-free, high-fibre, low-salt, micro-nutrient dense superfood powerhouse that will be way more satisfying than a sugary granola bar. 

  Use your freezer more!

Homemade muffins are a great way to pack in some extra fruit and veggies. Bake a double batch, wrap your muffins individually in cling-film after they’ve cooled, and freeze them! 

And did you know you can freeze hummus? Buy or make your favourite hummus and divvy it up into the small containers before freezing it. Grab a little hummus tub and a baggie of pre-cut carrots and celery, and you’ve got an instant snack. Just give it a stir after it’s thawed to mix it up again.

What if your kid is reluctant to try healthier options?

Unsweetened fruit smoothie blends including fruits and vegetables can help add variety to a child’s diet, but fussy eaters might still balk at having to eat whole fruits and vegetables. Take it from snack expert 7 year-old Mya Prehn and her mom, Erin, who knows that kids sometimes feel like eating healthy is a chore.

So why not make it more like a game?

Uneaten lunches were what encouraged Mya and her mom to create Lunch Apeel, an incentive game encouraging kids to eat healthier. Foods are assigned an “Abby Apple” value based on how healthy they are (Mott’s Fruitsations are worth 2 Abby Apples!). After earning 20 Abby Apples, kids earn a reward chosen together by the parents and child. Rewards can be anything from books to a movie-night.

It helped Erin and Mya establish a dialogue about good eating practices, and it got Mya involved in finding foods that would satisfy both her body’s needs and her taste preferences. Mya has gone from ignoring her vegetables to helping her mom pack healthy lunches and earning as many as seven rewards each month.

Mya pitched Lunch Apeel on the TV show Dragon’s Den and struck a deal to help get Lunch Apeel on the market. She was given $1,000 from each of the Dragons on the condition - set by Arlene Dickinson - that some funds be used to help support the Breakfast Club of Canada. On April 30, both Mya and Arlene will be in Calgary to make a $5,000 donation to an elementary school, helping to make sure kids in need don’t have to come to school hungry.

Like my son, Mya plays soccer, and this year, both of them will be heading out to the field equipped with what they need to play hard. Join us in making a healthy resolution! This year, ditch the junk from the coolers and pack a healthy snack instead. Encourage your kids to get involved in physical activities and making good nutrition choices by cutting back on added sugar in the diet.