Surviving a QuaranTEEN
Well, nothing like a global pandemic to bring me out of blogging retirement! As a former high school teacher, I just felt compelled to hop back online and offer some ideas for how I plan to get through this stretch of being homebound with two teenage boys for the next few weeks. Below are a few ideas and I'd love to keep the conversation going...so if you have more ideas please feel free to share in the comments below!
- Learn to make a traditional family recipe (via FaceTime with grandparents if that's an option): lefse, naan bread, pasta, etc..
- Participate in a workout challenge (many gyms/studios are offering free classes and challenges)! My boys' athletic trainers at ETHOS PERFORMANCE are offering an "At-Home Spring Workout Challenge" complete with a chance to win prizes.
- Watch a movie...here's a GREAT LIST OF MOVIES FOR TEENS AND COLLEGE STUDENTS.
- Take a FREE COOKING CLASS online HERE...my boys might try the Pasta Perfect and Sweet Baking classes!
- Virtual Tours: Google Arts and Culture offers great virtual tours of a variety of sites, but my favorite might be the National Park tours!
- Take an online course! This is a great time to get CPR certified, get a boater safety license, learn a language, etc...
- Try some copycat recipes! Learn to replicate some restaurant faves (Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich, Panda Express Orange Chicken, Shamrock Shake, etc...)
- Watch full length iconic games (1980 "Miracle on Ice" game, the 1987 "Replacements" game v. The Dallas Cowboys, etc...) Click HERE for more inspiration!
One of the biggest adjustments for me this year with our oldest son in high school was the transition to after school practices. When my boys were younger most of their activities were in the evening which meant they had time to come home and eat, do homework, etc... before heading out the door. Now, practices are held shortly after school gets out and if you have boys I'm sure I don't need to tell you that they are usually H-U-N-G-R-Y at the end of the day. That's the last thing I want for them heading into a sports practice.
It's been a challenge to find a good snack option, especially knowing it's ideal for athletes to eat a combination of carbs & protein before a workout for sustained energy and to help with muscle recovery. The key was finding something that was portable and bite-sized so the boys can eat them on the go, but also packs a nutritional punch. These energy bites fit the bill and they've definitely become a staple around here!
The bites are loaded with healthy fats and omega-3s, and the blend of protein and carbs provide a good source of pre-workout nutrients. The best part is that they can be made with a variety of mix-ins so you can change them up so your kids don't get bored with the same flavor!
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter (sunbutter might be a good option if peanut allergies are a concern)
1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 c. whole oats (I grind mine until they are fine as it helps with the texture of the bites. If you want to omit this step use quick cooking oats)
1/4 c. vanilla protein powder (chocolate protein powder tastes good, too!)
3 TBS. chia seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c. mix-ins (raisins, dark chocolate chips, dried cherries, M&M's, etc...)
Melt honey and peanut butter on the stove over low heat. Once melted, add vanilla and stir to combine. Mix together ground oats, protein powder, chia seeds, cinnamon, coconut & salt. Add peanut butter mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until thouroughly combined. Stir in mix-ins. (If using chocolate chips let the peanut butter/honey mixture cool slightly before adding in the chocolate.) Use a scoop to form the mixture into balls. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Good morning! They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I’ve also found it to be the most challenging. In the morning rush to get the kids out the door, it's pretty tempting to reach for the cereal box or a breakfast bar. Which is why I'm always on the hunt for quick-and-easy, grab-and-go breakfast ideas. These baked egg cups are perfect for busy mornings when you don’t have time to cook! They can be made ahead and warmed up for those mornings you need something fast & healthy. The best part is that they are loaded with protein and healthy fats so it's a good way to start the day!
My favorite thing about these egg cups is the ingredients can be modified to satisfy your pickiest eater. I like to add fresh seasonal veggies, sausage, and a variety of cheeses. The sky’s the limit!
Baked Egg Cups:
- 8 eggs
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- 1/2 lb breakfast sausage or crumbled bacon
- salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown the breakfast sausage or bacon. Beat eggs in a bowl. Mix in cheese, meat, salt & pepper (along with any other ingredients you want to add). Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
A New Chapter
Hello again! My posts on This Lunch Rox have been sporadic the past few years, as our family has been shifting out of the era of cute lunches and into a whirlwind of a new adventure. Our oldest is now in high school and our youngest started middle school this year, which means their life (and ours) is now a balance between school activities, homework, and several different sports. This dramatic shift means we’re out of the themed lunch phase, and have entered the ‘how much food can physically be crammed into this lunch box’ phase.
Since both boys are growing like crazy and both are involved in multiple sports year-round, I’ve been trying my hardest to fuel their bodies with nutritious food that they don’t have to be bribed to try! Anyone who has teenage boys knows they can eat a lot (and by a lot, I mean A LOT)! What I'm learning, though, is that when I fuel the boys with the right kinds of food (healthy fats, proteins, fruits/veggies, etc...) they are less likely to crave empty calorie foods.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends lately about this very topic. The struggle to keep growing, active boys supplied with healthy food seems to be a common dilemma. This challenge has prompted me to start a new chapter here at This Lunch Rox. My hope is that I can continue the conversation about food/nutrition, but in a way that’s more relevant to where we are with older kids.
It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the information out there about various foods. For a while I got stuck in a rut because it felt like every other week I'd read studies that showed this food is bad, then that food is bad. You can find articles that tell you to avoid dairy at all costs, avoid meat at all costs, don't eat any non-organic anything. For me, it's been a matter of finding balance and finding what works for my kids. I try to make the best choices I can, but I also need it to be reasonable and practical for my family.
My hope is that this new focus can explore a balance between healthy, filling foods that fuel active teenagers while being delicious and practical to whip up on a busy schedule. Thanks for joining me for this new, exciting chapter of healthy eating!
It felt a bit overwhelming with where to start back in again, so I thought I'd begin with the basics...my "staple" grocery items. Here are my ‘must-have’ items: (Click on the image below to download the grocery list!)
A few weeks ago a friend introduced us to Noosa yogurt. After the first taste all of us were hooked! I usually avoid flavored yogurt as it tends to be high in sugar and this brand is really no exception. However, I can appreciate the fact that this particular line of yogurt is made with farm fresh, rBGH-free whole milk (hello healthy fat!) and is sweetened with alfalfa honey.
We all really fell in love with this yogurt so I wanted to find a way for us to enjoy it without it turning into sugar overload. I threw a tiny bit of yogurt into a bowl, added some cut up fruit, sprinkled granola on top and it was pefect! The sugar content in one cup of this yogurt is 32 grams, so cutting it down to a serving size of 1/4 cup helps reduce sugar intake. The yogurt is so filling, especially when combined with the toppings, that 1/4 cup is more than enough for one serving!
I had both of my boys participate in a taste test where I combined the vanilla flavored yogurt with various fruit combinations. They liked several, but their favorite was the strawberry/blueberry mix.
This recipe can easily be thrown together in a small ramekin dish or a small cup...whatever you have handy. But if you want something portable...something kids can grab as they're running out the door or when they get home from school, small canning jars work really well!
My youngest son is getting braces this week so I made up a batch where I included the granloa in the parfait so it would soften and be easier for him to eat. Otherwise, you can scoop some granola into a little snack size baggy and pour it over the parfait right before you eat it. Mmmmm!!!
Yogurt Parfait Recipe
- 1/4 cup Noosa vanilla yogurt
- diced fruit
- Purely Elizabeth granola (you can find this brand at organic grocerers and at some Target stores)
Layer yogurt and fruit. Top with granola.
I posted this recipe a long time ago, but all these years later it is still one of my boys' favorites and now it's become a St. Paddy's Day tradition. This is a treat I love making since it is packed with powerhouse ingredients including my favorite fruit- avocados!
There's so much to love about avocados! They are high in omega-3's which help feed the brain and keep it healthy (omega-3's affect dopamine levels which influences mood). Avocados are also full of fiber, low in sugar, loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, and they help you absorb nutrients.
Combine the avocados with the other ingredients in this recipe and you have a pretty darn healthy treat! It might not be an exact copycat recipe of a certain fastfood chain's famous green shake (which contains a whopping 96 grams of sugar), but it's a healthier alternative and my boys love it so it works for me!
This recipe is adapted from Maria Emmerich, author of Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism!
Mint Protein Smoothie
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or full fat coconut milk)
1/4 cup Jay Robb vanilla protein powder
2 TBS cream cheese
1 cup crushed ice
*4 TBS sweetener
1/4 tsp mint extract
* I use 2 TBS of Wholesome Sweetener Zero (a natural plant based sweetener) and 2 TBS of organic sugar. This helps cut down the sugar content, but I found the boys are more likely to drink the entire smoothie when I include a bit of regular sugar as well.
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Top with shaved chocolate or sprinkles!
Makes 2 servings.
Giving Jar Printables
Yesterday we marked the beginning of one of our favorite family traditions...The Giving Jar. If you missed the original post you can see it HERE. Basically, The Giving Jar is a way for us to serve our community and it's something we thought might help us all remember the true meaning of Christmas.
When we started this project 5 years ago, we hoped we would be able to continue doing it year after year but feared life might get busy or the kids schedules would make it nearly impossible to complete. However, what we're finding is that the longer we do it the more adamant the boys are about continuing the tradition. As the boys get older we're altering the tasks and adding a few more "hands-on" projects which really allow the boys to dig in and sereve others.
Our Giving Jar is probably my favorite Christmas decoration we own. It's a great centerpiece that serves as a constant reminder about the spirit of Christmas and that it is, in fact, better to give than to receive...something I hope my boys will always remember.
Every year I get a lot of requests from friends and blog readers asking for printables and I am happy to oblige. Click HERE or on the image below to download a Giving Jar planning calendar, Giving Jar tasks (including some blank boxes if you want to create your own tasks, Giving Jar tags, and numbers).
Protein Puppy Chow
We are in the midst of hockey season up here in the northwoods and I'm gearing up for a big weekend between rinks. Our youngest son is in a tournament and our oldest plays in several games around the Twin Cities. On weekends like this I like to prep a lot of on-the-go snacks in an attempt to avoid concessions as much as possible. One of my boys favorite snacks is protein puppy chow. It's so easy to make and it's really filling...and it tastes oh, so good! I often double the batch so I can keep some on hand at home and have enough to fill snack bags the kids can grab on the go.
This recipe was modified slightly from a recipe provided by Food Faith Fitness.
- 1/2 c. chocolate chips
- 1/4 c. peanut butter (substitute sunbutter for peanut allergies)
- 1/4 c. honey
- 1.5 TBS coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4.5 c. Honey Nut Chex cereal
- 2/3 c. Jay Robb vanilla or chocolate protein powder
Melt the chocolate, peanut butter, honey & coconut oil in the microwave (10 second intervals, stirring between each one until mixture is smooth). Add vanilla and stir. Pour melted mixture over cereal and stir until combined. Pour protein powder into a large ziploc bag. Add cereal and seal bag, shake until the powder covers the cereal. Store in an airtight container.
They say breakfast is brain food making it the most important meal of the day. Sadly, mornings are usually the most chaotic time of day around here and my boys aren't all that hungry first thing in the morning. In order to get some nourishing food in them before they go to school I've discovered that having quick-and-easy breakfasts that they can eat on the go is essential.
Whether it's granola, smoothies, muffins, egg sandwhiches, or breakfast cookies...my goal is to get something in their system that packs a nutritional punch so their blood sugar is stabilized allowing them to stay alert and focused during the school day.
Today I'm sharing one of the easiest and most filling breakfast recipes I currently have in our rotation. These breakfast cookies are a powerhouse combo of protein, fiber, omega-3's so they are very filling. The best part is that they can easily be made ahead of time so they are easy for kids to grab as they are running out the door.
This recipe was adapted from Laura Fuentes' Oatmeal Cookie recipe and I took the lead on my adaptations from Real Food By Dad.
- 1 mashed banana
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter (or sunbutter)
- ½ cup honey
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- ¼ cup almond flour
- 2 TBS ground flax seeds
- 1 TBS chia seeds
- ¼ cup vanilla or chocolate protein powder (my boys prefer Jay Robb Chocolate)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup chocolate chips or raisins (my boys prefer chocolate chips)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
- In a large bowl, stir together banana, peanut butter, honey, and vanilla.
- In a small bowl, combine oats, flour, ground flax, chia seeds, protein powder, cinnamon, and baking soda.
- Stir the oat mixture into the banana mixture until combined. Stir in raisins or chocolate chips.
- Using a scoop, drop mounds of dough 3 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes or until browned. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag for up to 3 days. I like to split the batch and keep half in the freezer.
For portion control and to make it a little easier for the kids to grab on the way out the door, I usually package two cookies in a cookie bag. That way if they only want to eat one on the way to school they can keep the extra in the bag for later.
As many of you know, I have two growing boys...one teenager and one tween. What I'm learning about boys is that they can eat. A LOT! For a while I was so overwhelmed with how to keep them full that I started to let my standards slide. Pre-packaged snacks & fast food started creeping into their diets and we came pretty close to letting it become a regular occurence. The only problem was that it was costing us a fortune as those food choices seemed to only leave our boys hungry for more.
Both of our boys are very active in sports and the more reading I did about fueling teen athletes, the more important it became for me to provide them with nourishing food instead of junk. Especially since research shows that our muscles replenish glycogen much quicker when we eat within 30 minutes of a practice or a game. I realized that one of our biggest challenges was post-practice or post-games. The boys would come off the field, ice, or track (whatever season it might be) and they were H-U-N-G-R-Y! That's when we were most likely to grab packaged snacks or fast food.
A few months ago I started getting into the habit of pre-packing snack boxes on Sundays. Then when I'm running out the door to pick up the boys from their activities I have a quick, easy and nourishing snack for them to munch on while we drive home. The contents of the snack boxes vary depending on the season. Currently my son is in a stretch where football and hockey overlap. I've found that he's craving more fruits and veggies post-workout where when it was just football practice he asked for more protien cookies, muffins, etc...
Here's a peek at this week's snack boxes and if you keep scrolling down you'll find a printable of some of our make-ahead snack box staples!
I've found the Snapware 2-cup containers to be about the perfect size for packing snacks.
Here's a list of some of our snack box staples! You can download this list HERE.
*This post contains affiliate links to the Amazon store created by This Lunch Rox