If you’ve been a mom long you know kids like to eat. Some days I feel I’ve cooked all day only to have it disappear in moments. The struggle is real.
A common joke with every homeschool mom I know is that our kids are really hobbits. If you are familiar with The Lord of the Rings, you may recall J.R.R. Tolkien mentioning hobbits prefer six meals a day. One of my teen sons regularly quotes the movie line of Pippin asking, “What about second breakfast?”
The fact is, our kids do need to eat more, and frequently. When they are young their stomachs are smaller so need to eat more often to properly fuel their growing bodies. Growth takes a lot of energy.
Boys experience a significant amount of growth during adolescence. They can have growth spurts of several inches in a single month. Their muscle mass increases the most during puberty, and the growth of the muscles signals bone growth. Boys usually reach a higher peak of bone mass and density compared to girls. All of this growth takes a lot of fuel.
I have always strived to keep our pantry filled with healthy foods. With two teen boys currently in the house, I have to be really intentional. In a fast-food world, it can feel challenging, but it’s doable with some planning.
Regardless if your kids are teens or toddlers, get them involved. The younger they start helping the better. Keeping a family fed is a lot of work.
Create a snack box – I use a storage container that fits on my pantry shelf, and fill it with single-serving snacks like granola bars and fruit leathers. I look for healthy snacks that are individually wrapped.
When items are more affordable in bulk, I create single servings with small reusable containers. Bulk items are a great way to get children involved. When my kids were young I began including them in selecting ingredients, mixing, and packaging nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
Teach kids to bake – My kids have always enjoyed being in the kitchen. Knowing how to bake from scratch is much healthier than boxed mixes, and a good skill to learn. Kids learn to follow directions and use math skills. My daughter regularly bakes cookies or cake, and her brothers are happy to consume them. She learned to bake fresh bread this last school year.
My son has been harvesting our spring rhubarb and recently made a rhubarb cake. Banana and zucchini breads are also favorite recipes my boys make.
Fresh fruits and vegetables – My kids could live on fruit if I let them. I have a large fruit bowl and have a hard time keeping it filled. Its contents depend on what is in season.
Once a week I try to prepare a container of raw chopped vegetables to keep in the refrigerator. When my boys were younger they learned to peel their own carrots and enjoyed walking about quoting Bugs Bunny, “what’s up doc?” They were busy boys and I did not enlist their help using a knife until they were older.
When my daughter was about 5-6 years old, she began helping me chop vegetables. With a cutting board, paring knife, and supervision, she cut celery into sticks, peeled and sliced cucumbers, and cut the ends from fresh green beans. She became more willing to eat the vegetables she was preparing and has grown to take on a lot more prep work in the kitchen.
Provide ingredients – I do not have the time to make my kids something to eat every time they are hungry. Especially my growing teen boys. I do make sure to have supplies they need to cook for themselves.
The boys’ list of quick and easy favorites they make themselves:
- Sandwiches – Either cold or grilled a sandwich is easy to make with your favorite sandwich fillings.
- Breakfast sandwich/burrito – They are not just for breakfast anymore. Scramble or fry an egg, add some cheese, and voila. A slice of Canadian bacon is an extra treat when on hand.
- Mini pizza – Ingredients: English muffins, a squeeze bottle of pizza sauce, pepperoni slices, and shredded mozzarella. Build a mini pizza using the English muffins as the crust and top with sauce, pepperoni, and cheese. Bake at 350F until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Mom adds: Zucchini rounds can be substituted for English muffins.
- Quesadilla – warm two tortillas in a skillet, flipping carefully. Place shredded cheese between the tortillas spreading it out well. As it melts, flip carefully and quickly.
- Chips and salsa
- Crackers and hummus
The list could go on, but the boys suddenly got hungry and went for a snack.
In addition to three healthy meals a day, kids need snacks. They need fuel to support their quickly growing minds and bodies. Getting them involved in preparing snacks will encourage them to make healthy choices.