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Cooking healthy meals that are delicious and satisfying can be hard work for us moms! Lately, I’ve been struggling to curate a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner that include all of the important nutrients and vitamins, only to have my kids come to the table with a stubborn palate. It’s not an exaggeration when I say they would be fine eating chicken nuggets every meal, and as convenient as those drive-thru menus may be, I know that their development is key and daily nuggets would not suffice.

My latest craze has been Salata, a customizable salad restaurant in West U.  As a self-proclaimed salad-eater in Houston, personally, I have always been a fan of their salads and wraps and as soon as I realized that they had teamed up with local nutritionist Samantha Lopez MS, RDN, LDN to highlight the best options that provide essential nutrients for childhood development  in their kid-friendly bento boxes, I’ve added Salata to my weekly lineup! My kids get to pick 6 items from the list of over 50 toppings and 12 proteins

To keep my kids going through the day and throughout their various activities, I have to make sure I give them all of the nutrients that will keep them sustained.  Protein is on the top of the list helping to build, maintain and repair their working muscles. Protein also supports in developing a fighting immune system, key for that cold and flu season. Instead of filling them up on empty calories which is so easy to do with all of the snacks that are available, the addition of lean protein can keep them more satisfied. Salata has a variety of protein that my kids will nibble on including chopped egg, grilled chicken, pesto chicken, turkey, salmon (if it’s a good day) and shrimp. Sometimes we go with a Vegetarian option like tofu, falafel, quinoa, edamame, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, red beans, or black beans.

I personally spent my 20’s trying to eliminate fat out of my diet, but guess what… fat is back, (at least the good kind that is offered at Salata!) It’s a fact that healthy fats are key for brain and nerve growth and can help with fat-soluble vitamin absorption, healthy skin and curbing those afterschool cravings (ehh hemm, goldfish!) Crunchy and fun examples of healthy fat are pumpkin seeds, almonds, green olives, and avocado. My two-year-old loves to scoop out his own avocado so I make sure to bring an extra bib!

We all probably knew at least one person (if not ourselves) who had the flu this past winter, so incorporating Vitamin C into our children’s diet is essential to fighting off any sickness that may be lurking in the air (and in the classroom). Mandarin oranges, peppers (if your child will eat them), strawberries, and broccoli are great for getting vitamin C in the daily recommended dose.

If your kids are like mine, fiber is not something that would easily peak their taste buds. It’s funny that as you get older, suddenly bran muffins are chosen over the previous flavors of blueberry or lemon-cranberry. That being said, children don’t get enough fiber, the average is 25 grams per day with most kids eating around 12 daily grams. Good fiber picks include fresh fruits and vegetables, bean soups, nuts, and seeds, all available to include Salata’s bento box.

Lastly, calcium is necessary as it builds strong bones and teeth, helps the heart, nerves, and muscles to function better. Calcium is stored in the body to be used in years to come, so having extra calcium now as a child will just protect them overall. We encourage milk, of course, as well as cheese (especially feta, yum) tofu, almonds and kale.

The children’s bento boxes at Salata have literally been a game changer for me. For years I have been getting my grilled chicken wrap with feta cheese and now I am able to include my kiddos’ meals and snacks with their adorable bento boxes along with a juice box. They are easy to bring on the go, to activities, etc. and each time we get one, I try to sneak a new topping for them to explore (today it was edamame.) Salata has brought together two wonderful aspects of feeding our children that busy moms rely on … convenience and healthy!

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