Kids' snacks on the shelves feature all kinds of familiar faces. I've seen Pikachu, Paw Patrol, and every other character that kids recognize from their favorite shows and YouTube channels.
But are these snacks actually the best options for kids to chow down on after school? Do they provide the right nutrients kids need? Or is this just fantastic advertising fueled by mega-dollars to convince parents to add to cart?
Most of these packaged snacks featuring a favorite character are actually filled with many ingredients I guarantee you don’t want in the system of your child. Aside from that topic, nearly all of these snacks also lack significant protein content.
In the nutrition consultation work that I do, nearly every single individual under 18 years old does NOT eat enough protein. Doing a quick analysis of a day, I’ll see anywhere from 20-60g of protein per day. Why? Because if a kid is in school all day long, it is extremely difficult to consume protein. Why? Because all of those “famous character” snacks that are easy to pack for school don’t contain protein. They contain carbs, carbs, sugar, carbs, and more sugar. Did I mention sugar?
I bet you’re thinking, “but we eat lots of protein during the day, I even send a deli sandwich to school for lunch.” Let’s break down a real day that I saw by a young 16 year-old male athlete. Seriously, real-life situation here:
Cinnamon Toast Crunch (2g) with Milk (8g) + Orange Juice (.5g)
Goldfish Crackers (1g)
Deli Sandwich (4g) on Two Slices of White Bread (5g)
After School Snack:
Wheat Pasta (6g) + Red Sauce (2.5g) + Garlic Bread (2g)
Two Oreos (1.5g)
This extremely typical day is totaling about 44g of protein. At a minimum level of activity for an athlete, he should be consuming 70g of protein a day. If he has a moderate to high level of activity, he should be consuming upwards of 90-100g of protein daily.
So what’s the problem when someone doesn’t eat enough protein? Not only is protein important for growth, organ and tissue development, and hormone regulation, protein is extremely important for immune function and muscle development in athletes. Lack of focus, fatigue, mood, and even attention span can be effected with a protein-lacking diet.
I often hear from middle-school and teenage boys, “I have a hard time gaining muscle.” A quick rough estimate of daily protein intake shows a severe lack in protein consumption daily. This is not at all uncommon. Showing someone the real data on their day is eye-opening. The good news is now we know where to implement more protein sources.
Now that we know what the problem is, how do we solve it? Being truthful, it’s not easy to get protein in during a school day. It’s actually quite difficult.
If there’s a snack bag going to school, you can fill that with protein-rich foods like beef or turkey jerky, GoMacro bars, Aloha bars, Core bars, RX bars, Orgain Organic Protein bars, Cheese Sticks, and nuts/trail mix.
When having chewable snacks aren’t an option at school, you can look to items like Slate Milk, Orgain Protein, Aloha Shakes, and Protein2O water for liquid sources of daily protein.
For lunches, make sure to consume multiple slices of Organic deli meat or even a real chicken breast, cheese, and protein-rich yogurts like Siggi’s. If dairy and meat don’t jam with your lifestyle and needs, then bring along a plant-based protein-rich shake like Aloha in addition to lunch. It’s ok to supplement.
If you have no idea where your protein content for the day lies, do a quick google search for nutrition labels of your products. You’ll quickly be able to add up an estimate of a daily intake and make an assessment if more protein-rich foods should be added to the day.
Fore more resources on easy, packaged items for school or after practice, check out our Amazon shop at: https://www.amazon.com/shop/ericabeine