Ask The Expert: Energy-Boosting, Healthy Snacks For Mom And Kids

A Boston Children's Hospital dietitian gives us ideas about what to pack for that long car ride to Grandma's this Christmas.

Healthy snacks image via shutterstock

Healthy snacks image via shutterstock

With Christmas shopping in full swing and long days of holiday traveling ahead, both moms and kids are going to need a little extra boost of energy. But with experts on the fence about coffee and more calorie-heavy meals on the horizon, what can you and your kids enjoy that’s easy, healthy, and gives everyone the boost they need? We asked Skylar Griggs, a registered dietitian at Boston Children’s Hospital for tips and recipes for moms and kids.

What are the best kinds of snacks moms can pack for kids on long car rides? 

Always focus on two things for healthy snacks: balance and portability. Balance out your snacks so they include a carbohydrate and a protein or a fat. You want snacks you can grab as you run out the door, like easy sandwiches or homemade trail mix, and something that will stay fresh while traveling, like fruit in a small cooler.

What are a few common misconceptions about snacking? 

A common misconception is that snacks are unhealthy, when in reality, they are essential to adequate nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight for moms and kids alike. Generally, it’s recommended to eat something every three to 4 hours during the day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and a post-dinner snack if you’re still awake three hours after dinner. Another misconception is that 100 calorie packs are good for you simply because they only have 100 calories. Many 100 calorie snack packs lack adequate fiber, and leave you feeling hungry soon after eating them. When looking for packaged snacks, try choosing items with more fiber than sugar, and at least 5 grams of protein. The fiber and protein will keep your child satisfied and less sugar means less empty calories.

What about a little energy boost for Mom without resorting to caffeine? 

Try swapping out coffee for an alternative with a little less caffeine, like green tea. Studies suggest that the active component in green tea, EGCG, facilitates weight loss. Avoid eating foods high in sugar which will make fatigue worse in the long run. Keep a high fiber snack on hand, like an apple with a handful of nuts. Apples are full of vitamin C, and can help deliver that boost of energy, while the nuts stabilize blood sugar.

What should Moms and kids avoid in order to keep energy up? 

Avoid dehydration. It can be a cause of fatigue. Make sure to bring a bottle of water on the road with you wherever you go. Add some fresh fruit combinations to flavor your ice water and make it more fun. Try things like strawberry-basil, apple-cinnamon, or ginger-pear.

What snack recipes will kids love? 

1) Don’t count out the old staples. Natural peanut butter, or nut-free Sunbutter, and jelly sandwiches are quick to prepare and stay fresh for some time. Add a sliced apple instead of jelly for some extra heart healthy fiber. Or try a new spin by using almond or cashew butter with a banana and a squirt of natural honey on whole wheat bread.

2) Hummus is an easy side you can throw in a Tupperware container. It’s high in protein and fiber and its perfect for long car rides. You can pair any flavor of hummus with veggies, crackers, or apples for dipping.

3) Homemade trail mix is great, too. Combine various types of nuts, like peanuts, walnuts, and cashews, with a smaller amount of dried fruit and throw it all in a bag. For kids, that can have seeds but not nuts, you can use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds instead.

4) Pair any kind of fruit with string cheese or a mini Babybel cheese but make sure to keep the cheese in an insulated lunch bag. You can make it even more exciting—if you’re not planning to be in a moving car while your child eats it—by making snack kabobs. Just put low-fat cubes of cheese and a few grapes on a stick.

Any recipes for Moms, too? 

Any of the kids recipes will help keep Mom’s metabolism and energy up too, but specifically for moms:

1) Half a turkey sandwich. Pair a lean turkey or chicken breast with one-fourth of an avocado and place it all on a slice of whole wheat or oat bread. Avocados are a good source of healthy fat and help stabilize blood sugar.

2) Put some almonds in an empty Altoids tin or small Tupperware. They’re easy to snack on during a long car ride and the serving size allows for portion control. Add some coconut flakes for variety and extra energy.

3) Greek yogurt with half a banana or fruit. Greek yogurt is packed with protein for energy and healthy bacteria for the gut, and it pairs nicely with fresh, portable fruit.