It’s a cold, dark winter day. The sun seems to have permanently moved to another part of the planet. You watch your child drag himself listlessly from room to room. We asked our nutritionist Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD what foods will boost kids’ energy. She says, when you fuel your child’s body with food on such a yucky weather day, it’s important you make them a meal that provides sustaining energy, rather than just a quick burst.
Food combinations are key to sustaining energy
It’s the calories in food that give your child energy. Calories from carbohydrates are much more readily accessible to the body than calories from fat, though. Therefore, the body burns carbs most efficiently for energy. But if you give your child foods that are high in processed simple carbohydrates (sugary cereal, candy, donuts, sugared soft drinks, etc.) her energy will spike and then quickly peter out. Complex carbohydrates (whole grains, pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, beans etc.), on the other hand, take much longer to break down into glucose, which cells use as source of energy. Proteins and healthy fats slow down the absorption of glucose, which is why both are important to sustain your child’s energy.
Lisa’s ideas for food combinations that will give kids sustained energy:
Turkey Chili is a great dish to provide sustained energy to kids. “You’ve got the protein in the turkey and you’ve got the carbohydrates in the beans,” Lisa says. Try pureeing carrots, tomatoes and onions into the chili for an extra portion of nutritious vegetables. Did you know beans are also an excellent source of iron?
Make ZisBoomBah’s “Turkey Chili in under 30 minutes” (easy recipe)!
For the sweet tooth:
YOGURT WITH GRANOLA & FRUIT
Lisa suggests a sweetened yogurt – like vanilla yogurt – with granola and some sliced strawberries or banana. You are giving your child good antioxidants, good fiber, vitamins and minerals. “It provides a good energy to boost them. And because there is extra protein in the yogurt, it’s more sustaining,” our nutrition expert explains. Did you know that Greek yogurt not only is much creamier but also has nearly twice the protein of regular yogurt?
WHOLE-WHEAT TORTILLA WITH ALMOND BUTTER
Take a whole-wheat tortilla (or a toasted whole-wheat English muffin for a crunchier alternative) and spread it with almond butter. Again, the protein in the almond butter will sustain the energy from the carbohydrates in the tortilla.
Add honey or fruit jam for extra flavor and sweetness. Lisa recommends buying fruit jellies that are all fruit or fruit juice. And did you know that honey has immune boosting properties if it’s from local bees?
Quick snacks for prolonged energy:
FRUIT JUICE AND CASHEWS
For a quick snack that sustains your child’s energy level in between meals, give him a glass full of orange juice and a hand full of cashews. Cashews are a great source of protein and fat. He gets the energy from the natural sugar in the fruit juice without being hungry again in an hour, Lisa promises.
WHOLE-WHEAT CRACKERS WITH HUMMUS
The idea is again to give your child the “good” carbs from the crackers, combined with a protein boost from the hummus. “You can even mix in leftover chicken with the hummus,” Lisa suggests. “It’s almost like a chicken salad. It’s healthy for the kids and gives them even a little bit more protein for their snack.”