May 4th to 10th is Mental Health Week, and a rallying call for all of us #getreal about how we really feel. For many, myself included, it can start with talking about parenthood and the everyday challenges of our “new normal.”
How are you really feeling?
As a Mama of three, my biggest challenge is adapting to being a full-time stay a home parent and business owner. My kids are feeling the change, too. Cela and Remi have turned into little munching monsters since being home from school. They’re in and out of the fridge or pantry screaming, “Hey Mama, can I have a snack?” what feels like ten times a day. The dishes are piled high and I feel like I literally live in my kitchen.
Two weeks ago, I was almost ready to throw in the towel. But after a talk with a friend, I had an idea. I decided to embrace their enthusiasm for snacks, let go of perfection, and join them with a snack attack of my very own.
As a Dietitian, I know routine snacks are important, especially for growing kids with little tummies. Healthy snacks between meals can help them feel energized and happy until their next meal.
Snacks are also a great time to offer colourful fruits & vegetables since they’re not competing with other foods on the plate. Sometimes we have colour-themed snacks with share plates of GREEN cucumber, kiwi and edamame, or ORANGE carrot, dried mango and bell pepper.
But no matter the benefit, it isn’t always possible to make healthy snacks happen. Barriers of motivation, time, and food accessibility are very real. Moreover, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and outnumbered just because of cleaning duty. You’re not alone if you feel this way. Do what you can, when you can. Lean on helpers and simple solutions.
To keep my kiddos satisfied, and me sane, I created a snack routine that saves time, and reduces the emotional guesswork of “Mom, what’s for snack?” For our family, three snacks a day works best. But your family might find two is better, whatever works!
Our kids are now “helpers” in the planning and preparation. Everyone knows ahead of time what is being offered, and when. This approach has giving me some breathing room to relax, but remain in charge of the menu. Along with flexibility to feel ok with less food variety now that we are grocery shopping once a week, or less.
Here’s an example of our snack plan for Mental Health Week.
Morning Snack is a make ahead combo that we like to call, “Puffin Party Mix.” Barbara’s Puffins cereal, roasted chickpeas, dried cranberries, shelled pumpkin seeds and mini chocolate chips make up the mix. Sometimes we add coconut as well. Oh, and most any cereal works well. We enjoy Corn Bran Squares, Shreddies and All Bran Multi-Grain Crunch, too.
“I tend to buy cereals that are lower in sugar (10 grams or less), a good source of fibre (6 grams or more) and bring iron to the bowl (15% DV or more).” -EM
Afternoon Snack is usually something drinkable. Remi is always on-the-go and not always interested in slowing down for snack. The Orange-Creamsicle Smoothie never disappoints as a delicious as a drink, or frozen pop. Cooked split red lentils are one of my go-to protein boosters for smoothies, baked goods and pasta sauces.
“For this recipe, I leave out the honey right now because my Esme is just 8 months of age. Maple syrup makes a great alternative or a pitted Medjool date.” -EM
Evening Snack is super simple. This week it’s Apple Slices with Peanut Butter & Cinnamon.” Apples are the number one fruit in our house, and the crisper and sweeter, the better. As a kid, I loved peanut butter with apple slices, and now my Cela and Remi do as well. For Esme, I grate the apple and just smear a little peanut butter on her tray for her to eat with her fingers. It’s equal parts messy and adorable.
Evening Snack is hands down my favourite time of day. It’s our time to connect. We spend at least 10 minutes recounting the day and sharing a few thoughts for the day ahead. “Roses, Thorns and Buds” is an easy activity to get people talking. Share something good that happened that day–a ‘Rose,’ something that challenged you–a ‘Thorn,’ and something that you’re looking forward to–a ‘Bud.’
“Evening Snack is hands down my favourite time of day.” -EM
Our plan also includes snack requests for the week ahead, and what groceries are needed to make it happen. Nothing brings people together quite like food, and we’re definitely excited for how food will connect us again next week.
Make the most of snack time, and try our handy snack planner. The “GetJoyfull Family Snack Plan” template is free, and ready for download.
Happy snacking, everyone!
Emily Mardell is a Registered Dietitian, busy mama of three and proud Alberta foodie. Emily is passionate about quality ingredients and creating delicious, nourishing recipes that bring families together. Follow her at GetJoyfull.com for nutrition advice and tips to grow food joy and fill up on family time.