This school year might not look exactly how you imagined it would. With 42% of parents working from home and millions of students settling into online classrooms, we are facing an entirely different set of challenges than we have in previous school years. For students (and parents!), a virtual school year can be incredibly stressful, leaving students feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and frustrated with all that’s required of them. Add “hanger” to this swirling vortex of emotions and you’ve got the perfect storm. Never fear! At least there’s an easy fix for one of these problems. Fend off fits of “hanger” by having some easy, healthy snacks on hand for the whole family.
Everyone is impacted by hunger-induced anger at times, from the littlest children to full-grown adults. It takes just one moment to tip the scales from “I’m feeling a little snackish” to full-blown temper tantrum. Why does this happen? Most of us live busy, over-scheduled lives, and ignore our bodily cues. How many times have you thought, “I’ll take my lunch break after I finish up”? As adults, we know our own limits and often ignore them, pushing our hunger, thirst, or even bathroom breaks as long as possible with the idea of increasing productivity.
But what about little ones? Well, they learn from us. If the adults in their life prioritize hyper-productivity and intense scheduling, those habits will trickle down to them. And while most adults are capable of ignoring our cues without catastrophic reactions, little bodies are much less capable of self regulation.
The physical and emotional reactions to hunger are real and undeniable – and they are deeply connected. Many biochemical studies have shown a connection between hunger, low blood sugar, and hormonal influx. Basically, when you are hungry your blood sugar levels drop. This drop causes a cascade of hormones, including ghrelin (which stimulates the feeling of hunger), cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones that trigger “fight or flight” sensations), and neuropeptide-y (which has been found to induce aggression). This hormonal onslaught results in a rollercoaster of emotions.
The best solution to this hormonally-based emotional storm is to nip it in the bud. While things like better time management, fostering independence in your kiddos, and eating healthy, well-rounded meals at regular intervals are all great long-term solutions, in the short-term you should always make sure you have easy, quick, and healthy snacks on hand! Try these 6 quick fixes:
- Snack packs: Using tupperware or mason jars, you can make your own healthy snack packs! Think pre-cut carrots and ranch, apples and peanut butter, or pretzels and hummus. Great for on-the-go or snacking at a desk.
- Mini Pizzas: Everyone loves pizza! Mini-pizzas are a fun treat, and can be made on anything in just a few minutes. Load up an english muffin, rice cake, bagel, or even sliced zucchini with some tomato sauce and cheese, and throw it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. You can always play around with toppings too. Try pepperoni, basil, leftover broccoli… Whatever you have on hand.
- Smoothie packs: With just a little simple prep work, you can be ready to create delicious, healthy smoothies in an instant. Set aside some time on a Sunday afternoon to chop up your favorite fruit blends and put in individual containers or ziploc baggies and freeze. Then when you’re ready for a sweet frozen snack, toss the frozen fruit into the blender with your choice of yogurt, milk, juice, or water. You can also substitute some of the fruit for a frozen vegetable to make your smoothies extra healthy. For example, steamed-then-frozen zucchini creates a lovely creamy texture without all the sugar of bananas.
- Build your own parfait: Kids love taking control of their snacking, so encourage them to make their own parfaits by layering yogurt, their choice of fruit, and granola into a cup. Easy, quick, and minimal mess!
Pre-packed bento boxes: If you’re not familiar with the “bento” concept, it’s taken from Japanese culture and has gained popularity with families worldwide. One small lunch container, or “bento box,” has little organized spaces for the different parts of a meal. You can purchase a bento box, or make your own using a medium-sized tupperware container and nestling smaller containers inside of it. Again, recruiting your kiddos can help make this super fast and easy. Have them pick a vegetable, fruit, grain, and protein to pack into the bento the night before.
- Trail mix: A classic snack, build-your-own trail mix is a fun and exciting way to get kids to enjoy healthy snacking. You can set up a quick trail mix bar by spreading out different types of nuts, dried fruits, and other add-ins like dried peas, peanut butter chips, or even chocolate. Kids will enjoy picking their favorite combinations, and you can put the left-overs into one big container for more trail mix.
We know this school year isn’t going as planned, but families are proving their resilience time and time again. Success comes from finding new solutions in the face of new challenges, and you can lean into this unprecedented moment by making sure your family is as well-prepared as possible – which includes having snacks on deck to defeat hunger before it arises! Do you have any go-to quick snacks? Share them in the comments below!