The school year is packed with after-school activities. Give these tips a try to build a meal plan that keeps your teen ahead of their energy needs as they settle into the new school year.

Power breakfast

Teens value sleep over food and often neglect breakfast. With that in mind, have quick-grab foods on hand that teens can combine for an easy meal-to-go. Grabbing at least one item from each of the following food groups will get them a jump start on their day, such as:

  • Whole-grain carbs: Stock up on crunchy granola bars or make homemade breakfast cookies.
  • Fruit: Bananas are filling, while a half-cup of berries prepped to go in a sandwich bag gives an immune-boosting dose of vitamin C.
  • Dairy: Cheese sticks or yogurt provide protein and calcium. Look for yogurt tubes or bottled yogurt smoothies with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

Energizing lunch

Packing lunch ensures your teen gets what they need everyday, instead of being at the mercy of what is left at the cafeteria.

  • Sandwiches: Choose lean meat, cheese and whole-grain bread to provide a fueling combination of nutrients. Add mayo or mustard plus their favorite vegetables to keep it interesting. Instead of chips, pack fruit and yogurt to round out an energizing meal to keep them going strong.
  • Grilled chicken bowl: On Sunday, prep brown rice, vegetables and diced grilled chicken. Mix it all together with 2 tablespoons of an oil-based vinaigrette and divide into lunch-sized containers to take during the week. Add a fruit and yogurt to round out the meal.
  • Wraps: Start with a whole-wheat tortilla and fillings such as peanut butter and banana slices; hummus with vegetables and shredded cheese; chicken with romaine lettuce and Caesar dressing; black beans and mashed sweet potato. Pack fruit and cottage cheese for a satisfying side.

Stay-fueled snack

Since evening activities often fall over the typical dinner hour, the after-school snack matters.

  • Whole-grain cereal: A healthy cereal with milk and fruit, or a yogurt parfait with fruit and granola provide enough energy to see your teen through practice without overloading them.
  • Granola bars: Throw a crunchy or chewy granola bar and two mandarin oranges or a banana into an outside pocket of their backpack.
  • Canned soups: A 1-cup thermos of warm soup paired with an ounce of jerky and whole-grain crackers is my daughter’s favorite snack transitioning from sports practices to evening dance classes. The salt helps her recover after a hard practice and refocus for dance, and the light meal does not overload her.

Post-practice refuel

Although a fast-food meal seems like the easiest option after a long day, parents, we can do better. Try these quick dinner ideas instead:

  • Sloppy Joes: With lean ground turkey or beef, whole-grain buns and a can of sloppy Joe sauce, dinner is ready in eight minutes. Add a side of baby carrots and grapes.
  • Nut butter and jelly sandwiches: When time is extra short, a nut butter sandwich provides a healthy dose of fat and is best on whole-grain bread. Again, fresh fruit and vegetables make great sides.
  • Scrambled eggs: Eggs are an excellent protein, and they make a perfect recovery meal when combined with two slices of whole-grain toast and a serving of fruit.

Niki Kubiak is a sports-certified registered dietitian, competitive runner and owner of Niki Kubiak Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss. She blogs regularly for livewellnebraska.com.

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