It’s crunch time
…and also munch time. Kids are staying up late studying and eating lots of processed carbs to keep them going—which is a no-brainer (literally!) because fast food is omnipresent, everywhere they turn. Kids will plow through a whole bag of tortilla chips without even realizing it. Cookies and candy give quick energy but then cause sugar highs and crashes, one fix leading to the next. And then there’s the mythical midnight pizza, with plenty of grease and sodium and the promise of love handles or reflux…
My little secret
When kids are stressed and focused, and also hungry, they’ll likely eat whatever is put in front of them. This presents an opportunity. Sure, some kids will reject all but their trusty staples, but many will mindlessly nosh on whatever is within reach when their minds are busy devouring facts. You can also nudge them by sharing some wisdom—or some data—on how certain foods will help them achieve better results and why other foods can actually impair cognitive performance.
All about brain food
Here is last month’s fascinating article on brain food. And here’s what I actually gave my son to fuel his brain for a marathon 4-hour AP exam:
Menu for brain-boosting
Avocado spring rolls—yes, they’re store-bought (Central Market, Austin), and I’ll be very impressed if you make your own :-). But sometimes you gotta balance convenience and kid appeal with optimal nutrition. I approved the trade-off.
If I’d made them myself they wouldn’t include things like lactic acid and xantham gum, and certainly not “natural flavor” and never the dreaded canola oil, but for a modern ready-made meal, these are about as clean as you can find.
Day before dinner:
- Quinoa pasta* with chopped sea clams, garlic, scallions, and cilantro.
- Roasted asparagus with olive oil, coconut aminos and melted cheese.
- Roasted string beans with olive oil, leeks, garlic, chili flakes.
This may sound like a lot of hard work but it’s really not. Just wash veggies, place in casserole dish with olive/avocado/coconut oil and a few herbs/flavors you like and roast on about 400F till they are the firmness that you like.
*If you’ve been following me you know that standard American wheat is a cheap, nutrient-deprived food (except for artisanal sourdough and heirloom wheat berries), so I opt for gluten-free wherever possible. That said, most gluten free alternatives are made from the factory processed powders of high-glycemic foods like corn, rice, and potato. So look for versions made of chickpea, black bean, almond, konjak root, yam, or other protein-rich sources. There are tons of choices…
- Whole sheep yogurt with smashed banana, defrosted wild berries, cinnamon, and walnuts. Note that sheep yogurt is more sour, so if your kid is used to super sweet or mild, you might need to add more cinnamon or berries to overcome the sourness. Or mix with cow’s yogurt.
READY TO EAT POWER YOGURT
- Cold-brewed Chamelon coffee mixed with cashew milk (1:1). I usually don’t advise coffee for young brains but maybe a little in this case.
- Container of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red pepper slices. Perfect for snacking at school.
- Amy’s tofu scramble heated and sent to school in an insulated thermos. I’m not a huge fan of processed soybeans but tofu is such a great source of protein and it’s a quick food that’s easy to dress up seven thousand ways.
- Two low-sugar coconut chocolate balls from Alter-Eco, my favorite chocolate company.
- An apple: his favorite kind is Honeycrisp, which also contains the most (natural) sugar. We usually get Fuji, which are a little less expensive and available year round. But his new favorite is Envy, which is super crunchy!
I would have liked to make him a potent smoothie full of power foods, but all-in-all I felt like this menu set him up for success. Next week we’re back to the races with a week of finals, so I’m going to do all of the above plus dishes with eggs and fish. With my teenager I sometimes have to cajole and negotiate and threaten and bribe to get to “yes” but I do everything I can to keep him fueled for success 🙂
I’d love to hear what you made and what worked! Keep trying!
-your trusted GFF
- Watch my Power Smoothie Dance!
- Don’t forget to check out the first and only card game that gets kids into veggies!
- Get the free Power Pantry eBook when you subscribe.
- I have a whole store full of cool stuff!
- Check out the Good Food Fighter comic strip.
- Get all kinds of fantastic resources to live a cleaner life.
- Here’s my son, the incomparable Chef Sizzle-Snap, making Korean Bibimbap