Between running errands, taking kids to practices, and attending games, events, and other activities, it can be hard to plan healthy meals and snacks for your family. Although you may already know that fast food is not always a nutritious choice, alternative on-the-go options, such as protein bars, might not be the healthiest either. Although these bars can be fast and convenient, it is important to understand how to help make heathier choices for kids.
Although protein bars won’t beat out a well-balanced meal or snack, they can be a healthier choice than fast food, concession stand food, and food in vending machines. We also know that a protein bar would be a better option than skipping a meal entirely. Although protein bars can be a simple and relatively mess-free option, there are some drawbacks to offering protein bars to children.
Not all protein bars are created equal. While some protein bars may provide a rich supply of nutrients, other bars’ nutritional content may be closer to that of a candy bar. Most children don’t need extra protein and young athletes would actually benefit more from protein-rich foods like lean meats, low-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Along with unnecessary protein, some bars may contain extra calories from added sugars, unhealthy fats, and extra carbohydrates that are intended for endurance adult athletes. Protein bars usually come with a high price tag too. Some bars cost up to $5.00 each, so buyers beware!
Instead of packing expensive, unnecessary protein bars, plan ahead to pack nutritious meals and snacks for your children. Try quick and easy foods that contain whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein foods, and low-fat dairy. Easy ideas for snacks on the run include fresh fruit, such as apples and bananas with peanut butter; whole grain crackers with cheese; or a homemade trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, and whole grain cereal. When packing meals and snacks, just remember the food safety rules. Packed Lunch Safety has great tips to review how to clean, separate, cook, and chill foods properly for food on the go.
Here is an easy recipe that packs well :
Soft Granola Bars
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups regular oatmeal
- 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup raisins or chopped dates
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup nuts
- ¼ cup honey
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- Preheat oven to 350 °F. Spray a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2-inch jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Crack eggs into a large bowl. Wash hands with soap and water after cracking raw eggs. Add brown sugar and vegetable oil, stirring until smooth.
- Stir in remaining ingredients, except honey.
- Spread into prepared pan.
- Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until done. Cool.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook honey until heated through, stirring constantly. Drizzle honey on top of granola bars.
- Serving Size (1/21 of recipe):
- Calories 230
- Total Fat 12g
- Saturated Fat 1.5g
- Cholesterol 25mg
- Sodium 105mg
- Total Carbohydrates 31g
- Fiber 2g
- Total Sugars 14g
- Protein 3g
- Vitamin A 0%
- Vitamin C 0%
- Calcium 2%
- Iron 6%
A Guide to Eating for Sports, KidsHealth from Nemours
Food Safety Basics, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
This newsletter has been peer-reviewed.