Smacking Good Snacks
Naturally Healthy Choices Kids Crave
Adults may think in terms of three meals a day, but kids are natural grazers, enjoying small portions of lots of different foods throughout the day. So it makes sense for parents to expand the notion of snack time and to have healthy foods ready when hunger strikes at a moment’s notice.
If kids can understand that a snack simply means a smaller portion of a good-for-us food instead of a processed item with empty calories, the rest is easy. More, when kids can help prepare the snack and are more invested in the process, they’re also more likely to eat it, advises Marina Ganter, a former researcher with Bon Appétit and Gourmet and the mother of daughters Zoe and Charlotte, ages 9 and 7.
The following ideas for premade, easy-to prepare snacks will curb hunger and deliciously nourish children. It’s easy to keep several options on hand and form good eating habits early.
Naturally Sweet ~ “One way for your kids to enjoy healthy snacks is to get them started on naturally sweet foods,” says Christine Steendahl, of KidApprovedMeals.com and DineWithoutWhine.com, which sell menus and shopping lists to parents looking for guidance in meal preparation. “Since most kids crave sweets… naturally sweet foods such as fruits are perfect.” Real bananas, oranges, apples, cherries, strawberries and other fruits are popular with most kids. She suggests that “You can mix in yogurt or even make a fruit smoothie with some milk and a drop of chocolate or other natural flavors.”
Or cut a firm, ripe banana (a good source of potassium) in half horizontally and insert a frozen treat stick in the cut end. Then, roll or brush the banana in antioxidant-rich, melted chocolate chips. Kids like these fresh or frozen; if frozen, let the chocolate-coated bananas cool, then wrap and freeze them for up to a month.
Frozen Yogurt ~ Jessica Seinfeld, author of Deceptively Delicious (), is the mother of Sascha, 9, Julian, 7, and Shepherd, 4, and the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld. She makes frozen yogurt “lollies” (frozen lollipops) by puréeing a 16-ounce carton of plain yogurt with two or more cups of fresh or frozen berries in a blender or food processor. She then pours the mixture into frozen treat molds. “Your kids think they’re just getting a treat,” she smiles, “but these lollies are a great low-calorie, low-fat alternative to high-fat ice cream.”
Little Plates ~ Ganter celebrates her family’s French/Greek heritage with mezedes, or “meze”—little plates of lots of things—which her daughters adore. “These vary constantly at our house,” she notes, “depending on what’s fresh at the market and what’s in my fridge. The great thing about small plates is children are free to take as much or as little as they want and can sample several things at once.” The variety might include hummus, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, pita bread, Kalamata olives and steamed spinach, flavored with garlic and olive oil.
From the Garden ~ When children pick their own foods from a garden, they are more likely to eat the resulting dish, especially fresh vegetables. Tatjana Alvegard, a photographer and blogger, has discovered that her daughters Nikita, 8, and Kaya, 3, know that a snack is as close as their own backyard. They love helping Mom make an easy basil pesto to herb just-picked tomatoes, sandwiches, pasta and garden-fresh veggie dips.
Nuts and Dry Cereals ~ “One thing to recognize about children is that if they try enough types of natural and healthy snacks, they will find one that they enjoy,” remarks Steendahl. “The problem is that many times, parents give up trying to find the snacks that their kids like and settle for popular junk foods instead.” She stresses the importance of teaching kids which snacks to eat and which to avoid early in life, so that they can sidestep obesity problems as they grow. Nuts and dry cereals, for example, are choice alternatives to chips and other junk foods.
According to California-based pediatrician and author William Sears, who markets his own line of healthy kids snacks called Lunchbox Essentials (), parents should read labels to tell which manufactured products contain hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup—all of which are best avoided. Rather, give family members snacks that provide both fiber and protein, which create a feeling of fullness and taste good, as well.
Judith Fertig is a freelance food writer in Overland Park, KS; for more information visit .