When there's a niche and a need, food companies will fill it! The niche? Families on-the-go. The need? Meals and snacks that are healthier than fast food. The result? Dozens of new healthful (or seemingly healthful) handheld foods.
With breakfast paninis and pocket bread sandwiches and portable snacks like pretzels and salsa, many families are joining this forkless food movement that makes eating away from the dinner table easy. While some forkless foods are made with whole grains and other healthy ingredients, caretakers do need to read more than the claims on the front of the box. For example, just one of Kraft's Bagel-fuls microwavable frozen bagel sticks filled with cream cheese will jab you with 200 calories. And Smucker's Uncrustables (cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) contain countless "less healthy" ingredients like partially hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fat), white flour, and high fructose corn syrup.
Beyond reading food labels to find the healthiest forkless foods, what's a family carting kids from school to soccer and soccer to dance to do? Some argue to stop over-enrolling kids in sports and activities and bring the family and fresh, home cooked food back to the dinner table. Several studies have shown that family meals improve diet quality (more fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods and less soft drinks) in children and adolescents. And a recent study showed that family meals during adolescents may have a lasting positive influence on dietary quality and meal patterns (eating breakfast and regular meals) in young adulthood.
What are your thoughts? Is it more important to enrich the lives of children with outside activities or focus on family meals? Or, can caretakers do both? Do you have any good-for-you-on-the-go foods to recommend to others?
Larson, N.I. (2007).Family meals during adolescence are associated with higher diet quality and healthful meal patterns during young adulthood. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 107, 1502-1510.