As parents, it’s often assumed that snacks for our kids will be processed convenience foods. After all, they are usually inexpensive and non-perishable finger foods that transport easily and cater to the busy lives we lead.
However, studies continue to show that too much of many of these foods—like those adorable goldfish crackers and “all-natural” fruit snacks—can be tied to increased health and dental risks for young kids. (For an eye-opening exercise, download The Snack App and start scanning the UPC codes of the snacks you feed your kids. Those “healthy” granola bars we hand out at all times? One of the lowest ratings possible.) There’s also concern that we’re raising a generation of non-stop snackers who may be less prone to eating healthy, balanced meals.
But, since we do live in a culture of snacking, it can seem cruel to deprive kids of between-meal noshes, especially when everyone else is toting a Snack-Trap on the playground. The key is to balance healthy snacks with treats, and doing so really only takes a little extra time and planning.
Here are some quick, nutrient-rich snacks that kids really love!
Kale ranks as the No. 1 healthiest food on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), so it seems crazy that kids would eat this veggie as a snack. But with the right prep, it can taste like a potato chip!
Wash, de-stem, and tear into 2-inch pieces enough kale leaves to cover a cookie sheet. Drizzle with just a little bit of olive oil and toss until lightly coated. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Bake at 425F until crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch closely because they burn easily at the end of the cook time. Cool slightly. Delicious!
We scarf them down at sushi dinners, so why not re-create the perfect finger food at home? Inexpensive, full of protein, low in fat and calories.
Simply boil a pound or so of frozen edamame in water for about 5 minutes. Strain and sprinkle with sea salt. Can be eaten warm or cold, in the pod for older kids and out for younger.
Make-Your-Own Trail Mix
Pre-packaged trail mixes are often meant to be a foil for chocolate chips, M&M’s, and pretzels. For a lot less money, you can make your own in bulk and portion it out as needed. For an even easier solution, some Whole Foods stores now feature trail mix bars to facilitate this very concept.
Mix together any combination of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds; keep in an airtight container. A yummy combo is dried cranberries, dried cherries, golden raisins, almonds, cashews, and walnuts.
This recipe is from a native Mexican friend, and it is the easiest, fastest, best recipe for guacamole ever.
With a potato masher, combine two peeled, pitted, and chopped ripe avocados with the juice of half a lime, 1 teaspoon salt, and one minced garlic clove. Serve with carrots and celery or baked tortilla chips. Also delicious on wheat toast for breakfast.
Keep it simple when it comes to yogurt. Flavored commercial yogurts often have as much sugar as a candy bar.
Opt for plain low-fat yogurt and let your kids add their own toppings, like jam, honey, peanut butter, granola, and/or fresh or dried fruit.
Greek Yogurt Dip
Since all parents are trying to get their kids to eat more veggies, have pre-cut carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli waiting in the fridge, ready to scoop up this healthy, fat-free, high-protein dip.
Mix 1 1/2 cups fat-free Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon each of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and dried dill, and 1 tablespoon each of dried parsley and dried minced onion. Let sit for about an hour before serving.
Again, it sounds crazy, but kids absolutely love this no-fat treat.
These crunchy, salty papers are now available in small packages for less than $1, and an entire serving has no fat and only about 30 calories.
Baked Garbanzo Beans
For the price of a can of beans, you can make a delicious substitute for potato chips and cheese curls.
Rinse and drain 1 can of garbanzo beans and dry on a paper towel. Toss with 2 teaspoons each of olive oil, paprika, and chili powder. Bake on a cookie sheet at 400F for about 40 minutes, checking and tossing every 10 minutes.
One batch of popcorn can be customized to each person’s tastes.
Making stove-top popcorn is the most delicious method, but using an air popper is easier and a little healthier. And in a pinch, fat-free microwave popcorn is not the worst thing. Add some flavor with these variations:
- Hide a few treats, like yogurt raisins, inside the kids’ bowls.
- Top with a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- For adults, add a dash of cayenne pepper for a salty, spicy treat.