It all started with a Morgan Spurlock double feature. My 18-year-old had just watched The Greatest Movie Ever Sold in his high school economics class (it features our county school board!) and wanted me to watch it with him. I then suggested Spurlock’s first movie, Super Size Me, his 2004 takedown of the Golden Arches.
To say my son’s world was rocked would be an understatement.
Don’t get me wrong — he wears skinny jeans with a 30-inch waist, doesn’t drink soda and loves kale. But he can put away bacon cheeseburgers and boxes of Cheez-Its like nobody’s business, and he knows his metabolic gravy train will be coming to an end soon.
The documentary set in motion a flood of promises: No more chips, crackers, creamy coffee drinks, fast food, school lunches, giant bowls of cereal and excess sugar. This had nothing to do with me — it was all him.
As someone who has been on some sort of diet since the age of 10, I made a deliberate attempt as he was growing up not to demonize food or make comments about his weight. It appears to have worked.
Notice he swore off school lunches. Schools have improved a little over the years on quality but there’s still a long way to go.
“Mom, can you make my lunch for the rest of the school year?” he asked. After 12-odd years of pizza, pizza and more pizza (and Mexican pizza!), he wanted to clean up his act in the cafeteria as well as at home.
And since the kid is 18, I gently reminded him that he was more than capable of packing his own lunches. He also was looking for a substitute for his beloved Cheez-Its and quick and easy breakfasts that he could gobble down before school.
After showing him the wonders of overnight oats, he asked me to write down some easy meals and snacks that balanced protein, fats and carbs. He’ll be heading off to college this fall, and I wanted to focus on things that he’ll be able to assemble rather than cook.
As for swearing off soda, it’s something he did a couple years ago. Aside from water he’s also a fan of naturally sweetened drinks, such as Bai, Ocean Spray Pact, and an occasional iced tea at Starbucks with just one pump of syrup instead of the customary four to five.
So instead of scribbling things down and sticking them to the fridge, we figured we might as well share our ideas.
- Overnight Oats: Combine a 5-ounce container of fruit-flavored Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons uncooked old-fashioned oats, a tablespoon of chopped nuts or seeds (chia, hemp, flax), ½ cup fresh or frozen fruit and a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Combine and store overnight in the fridge. In the morning, stir and add another splash of almond milk if it’s too thick.
- Easy Avocado Toast: Toast a slice of whole-grain bread, like Ezekiel, and spread on a single-serve pack of guacamole. Top with a sliced hard-boiled egg.
- Wrap and Go: Slightly warm a sprouted-grain tortilla to make it pliable and spread it with a couple tablespoons of hummus, which adds a little extra protein and fiber and more flavor than mayo. Add turkey breast slices and loads of spinach and wrap up in aluminum foil. Add a piece of fruit for “dessert.”
- Dip and Dash: In a sandwich bag, throw in some carrot sticks and a single-serve pack of hummus. Add to that half a whole-wheat bagel, a single-serve cup of applesauce and a cheese stick. (This meal was born of sheer laziness, but he liked the combination.)
- Nuts: Single-serve packs of almonds, or if you want to be more thrifty, portion out an ounce at a time into reusable mini containers. It’s a crunchy snack that packs far more nutrition than cheese crackers.
- Precooked hard-boiled eggs: They’re a huge timesaver, especially if you’ve got younger kids. All they need to do is grab one and go for a high-protein snack.
- Prewashed salad blends: They can be the base of a good snack if your teen wants to graze on something. Find a salad dressing they really like (my kid is a fan of Annie’s Goddess dressing) and as long as they don’t drown the lettuce, it’s an easy way to pack in a bunch of produce.
- Protein waffles: Make a batch of protein waffles (Flapjacked and Mancakes are both great products) and keep them in the freezer — a more protein-packed option than packaged frozen waffles. Then your kid can pop one in the toaster and spread it with nut butter for a quick snack or part of a breakfast.
What are your kids’ favorite healthy and quick meals and snacks? —Gail