Sometime between lunch and dinner snack time comes calling. Kids are often the first to grab for something sugar filled and unhealthy but you can make snack time a nutritious and fun experience by offering them some of these simple and healthy alternatives. Put aside the chips and sodas and whip up some of these easy and nutritious treats:
- Baby Veggies-Getting kids to eat their vegetables is not always easy. I have found that they are more likely to grab a snack of vegetables if I buy baby ones. Tiny carrots, little crowns of broccoli, tiny leaves of lettuce and spinach and itty bitty radishes all enthrall my kids. I pair it with goat cheese or a tiny bit of low fat ranch dip for a snack that I can feel good about serving. It is also great for parties.
- Pretzels – Big or little, pretzels are great snacks. They are low in fat and very filling. It is easy to make your own giant pretzels. I like to make a variety of ones. Some with sea salt, some with cinnamon and sugar, some with cheese and some just plain. I also like to dip it in mustard or honey for an added treat. Little pretzels are great of on the go snacks and taste even better dipped in peanut butter or paired with banana slices.
- Trail Mix – While you can buy trail mix in the store it is so much healthier and easy to make your own. Blend together things your kids really love. For instance my kids love peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. They also like dried cranberries and apricots. Some people add pretzels or candy to their trail mixes as well. As a treat sometimes I add cheese popcorn or baked cheese snack crackers to the mix. You can even coat your trail mix in spices, cinnamon, or ranch flavoring for a whole different experience. The nuts and fruit in trail mix are full of great protein and vitamins to help kids feel full and satisfied.
- Dried Fruit – As I mentioned my kids love dried cranberries and dried apricots. However there are many dried-fruits and veggies available for kids. One of my children loves dehydrated peas. Another one likes to eat dehydrated okra in place of French fries. I like dried pears and peaches, although the peaches have an odor that not everyone can take. Even the littlest kids enjoy the soft rings of dried apples and the crunchy natural sweetness of dried banana slices. You can dry your own fruits and veggies at home too. Dehydrated berries, like strawberry and blueberry, are a big hit in cereals, yogurts and just out of the bag. Not only is dried fruit low in calories but it has all the vitamins of the real thing in a portable less messy package.
- Dry Cereal – Another great portable snack on the go is dry cereal. I love to snack on reduced sugar fruit loops, Kix, Cheerios, Chex and more. Cereal is great mixed together for different flavors too. From apple and cinnamon to honey to crunchy fruity flavors there is no end to the variety of cereals your kids can munch on. Make a variety box and let everyone take a few bites of different cereals as you travel. Most cereals are full of whole grains and vitamins so they make a great snack. Try to avoid the really sugar filled ones and stick to the lightly flavored ones for the healthiest snacks.
- Ants on a Log – This classic kid’s favorite is simple to make. You start out by cleaning and prepare some celery. Celery is a great snack that is very low on calories and high in fiber. Cut it into child sized pieces about the size of your finger. Then fill the convenient cavity with some creamy natural peanut butter. Peanut butter is full of protein and good fats that help to build strong muscles. Top the celery and peanut butter combination with a few raisins for the ‘ants’ on this log. Kids love to play with their food and having it prepared in fun ways is sure to get their attention.
- Frozen Grapes – A great healthy summer treat for kids frozen grapes are fun. While smaller children should not eat them whole for fear of choking, older kids get a kick out of crunching on typically soft grapes. Grapes also change in flavor a bit as they freeze. I prefer white grapes as the skin is thinner and tends to taste better when frozen. You can make it even more fun by rinsing the grapes off just before you freeze them. This gives them a crunchy and shiny thin coating of ice. Frozen grapes also make a great travel snack that helps keep lunch kits cool.
- Frozen Banana Pops – Another fun and easy summer treat this one has only one ingredient. Bananas! Peel and cut a banana in half. Stick in a stick and freeze. It becomes a tasty pop that kids will love to gobble up. You can make it even fancier by dipping it in melted chocolate chips. I also like to puree two bananas with three cups of fresh strawberries and pour into a mold. The ice pops that result taste just like smoothies and my kids absolutely love them. I love that there is no added sugar!
- Apple Sandwiches – Why load up on a lot of carbs when you can substitute bread for fruit? My kids love this idea because it works so well and taste great. First peel and core an apple. Then cut the apple in rings with the hole for the core in the center. Spread peanut butter on a ring and decorate with raisins or dried cranberries. Top with another apple ring for an apple sandwich. Yummy and can also be done with a cheese slice.
- Goldfish Crackers – I love a good cheese cracker and the fun fish shape of Goldfish crackers are always a hit with kids. I love that they are baked and not fried. However they do have some ingredients I would rather do without. That is why I have started to make my own Goldfish crackers. The hardest part was making the tiny cookie cutter to stamp out the fish shape. All you need is cheese, butter, flour and salt to make your own tasty crackers. Here is a simple recipe that I have used before. It even includes directions for making your own cookie cutter and examples of things you can use instead that you have around the house if you are not that creative.
- Graham Crackers – Did you know that the Graham cracker was originally created as a diet food? Yes, the creator came up with the idea that if you lived on nothing but his crackers you would get skinny. Well, in a way he was right. There are a lot of good things about Graham crackers, especially the low fat versions. I live that they are low in sugar and yet still have that sweet taste that makes you think you are having dessert. Cinnamon and honey varieties are my kids’favorites although a chocolate Teddy Graham or two hits the top of their list.
- Animal Crackers – Another fun snack for kids that is low in fat are animal crackers. Frankly I can’t stand them, probably because that was the only snack my school served when I was little, but my kids seem to love them. I think they just like to bite the heads and feet off the crackers or pretend to have a zoo. Well, if it makes them happy I am willing to let them play with their food.
- Meat, cheese and crackers – I used to love Lunchables when I was young but I don’t like giving my kids food that contains that much artificial junk. Instead I make up my own Lunchables. Using organic turkey lunch meat, organic cheese and whole grain crackers I can feel good about giving my kids this snack. They love to build their own sandwiches so don’t worry about assembly. Just sit back and watch them have fun with their food. Adding meat and cheese is a great way to help them feel fuller longer while still giving them the nutrition their bodies need.
- Oatmeal Cookies – Last but not least is the health nut of the dessert world. Oatmeal cookies are one dessert I don’t feel guilty giving my kids. I lighten it up by substituting half the butter with apple sauce and half the sugar by adding more vanilla flavoring. Packed full of wholesome oats and tasty raisins or driedcranberriesthese cookies are filling and make kids think they are getting something special.
These are just a few of the healthy snacks you can give your kids. Steer clear of artificial colors and flavors and get back to your roots. Fresh fruits and veggies make great snacks and they also help your kids live healthier, happier lives.
About the Author:
Ken Myers is an expert advisor on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to www.gonannies.com. You can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.