>> Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Plain and simple, this post is all about snacks. Here you'll find most of the snacks that I turn to day in and day out. Healthy snacking is still tasty snacking! I am by no means perfect. When I'm tired or in a rush - or when my kids pester me enough - I all too often head straight for the crackers or the few processed snacks that we keep around. As you'll read, I think that crackers and processed snacks can and do have a place in healthy snacking, but they should be just a small part of the snacks that are served. (You can read a good article about crackers and snacking at It's Not About Nutrition.)
I hope that this snack list will give you some ideas or inspiration. And I hope that you'll share ideas with me too!
Fruits and vegetables really should be the first snack offered, but I'll admit that they too often play second banana (excuse the pun) at snack time around here. To combat that, I always send fresh fruit or vegetables as one of their school snacks and afternoon snacks are automatically the fresh stuff most of the time. If you set a rule that afternoon (or morning) snacks will only be fruits or vegetables, it becomes the way it is and the grumbling is at least manageable. Some ideas:
- Carrot sticks, celery sticks, sugar snap peas served with or without dip
- Celery stuffed with Laughing Cow cheese, nut butter, or pimento and cheese
- Apple wedges with peanut butter or cheese
- Fresh fruit smoothie (keep it simple and mostly fruit!)
- Fruit kabob
- Pomegranate seeds are always fun and tasty
|Nutty Granola Bars|
I love my simple baked goods! These are great for snack or even for breakfast. Wrap in aluminum foil, and they make a great school snack. (See my caution about buying prepackaged goods below.)
- Pumpkin Muffins
- Homemade granola bars - My Nutty Granola Bars are always wonderful, and I recently made these granola bars from Mark Bittman that are very different from my baked granola bars but very good.
- Makeover Banana Bread
Packed full of protein and good fats, nuts and seeds are a great midday pick-me-up. You can serve them plain or mix it up a little. Pre-shelled nuts and seeds can be salty, so look for nuts that are low or no salt.
- Homemade trail mix - mix some nuts, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower seeds are staples here), and dried fruit...and maybe some dark chocolate chips if you're feeling like a super-nice mom. (See my caution about dried fruit below.) Add some Cheerios or other cereal if you want.
- Almond Butter Balls - these are super easy to make and highly addictive.
- Nuts in the shell - for some reason, nuts still in their shell are a hit with the kids. There's nothing like the challenge of breaking the shell to liven up snack time!
Snacks often are no-nonsense out of necessity, but sometimes it's ok to have a little fun with them too. Take an ordinary snack and put a little twist on it.
- Use Nutella (or other chocolate/nut spread) sparingly for some fun snacks. Favorites here are graham crackers with Nutella and almond butter, and tortilla wraps with Nutella and sliced banana or strawberry.
- Chocolate covered strawberries are a snack that will leave your kids smiling.
- Serve cheese cubes or cut up fruit with a fancy toothpick. My kids love to spear cheese or fruit with little plastic sword toothpicks that I found at the grocery store.
- Cut out snacks with cookie cutters for fun shapes
Packaged foods have their place
Crackers. Need I say more? Packaged or processed foods do indeed have their place at snack time, but it is so easy to rely on crackers and other processed foods too much. When you buy processed foods, be sure to look at the ingredient list and understand what you're buying. HFCS and hydrogenated oils are automatic no-nos for me, but ideally the processed food would have a simple ingredient list that is not too high in bad fats, sugar, or sodium as well. All of those make foods taste good, though, so it's common for packaged foods to be high in one or all of them.
Don't feel bad about using packaged foods as part of snack time, but understand what you are serving and make sure that packaged foods are just a small part of snack time!
A few packaged goods that stay in my pantry:
- Stretch Island fruit leathers and fruit roll-ups
- Crackers of various types
- Cliff Z Bars
- Cheese and cheese sticks
Some processed foods always sound better than they actually are. If it seems too good to be true, well, it probably is. A few to look out for:
- Yogurt-covered anything sounds so good, but it rarely is. Read the ingredients! That yogurt covering has little resemblance to the yogurt you buy in containers. Instead, you get a product that either contains partially hydrogenated oil or some other weird oil (like fractionated palm kernel oil) that is high in saturated fat.
- Granola bars seem to be breeding grounds for sugar of every kind - corn syrup and HFCS if you're buying a conventional granola bar, high maltose corn syrup and cane sugar if you go organic. Plus, they often are high in added saturated fat and a playground for weird ingredients.
- Dried fruits. While some are simply fruit that has been dried (like raisins and prunes), so many dried fruits have added sugar. Many even have HFCS in them! Pineapple and papaya are often packed full of extra sugar. I still use many of the added sugar dried fruits, but I try to use them appropriately and not as the main part of the dish.
Don't forget that you are in control of snack time! If you don't want you or your child to eat something at snack time (like a sack of Cheetos), don't make it an option. Get it out of the house or lay down the law that snack time is for healthy foods.
And if this list of snacks doesn't satiate you, check out the blog Fix Me A Snack. Cindy has pages and pages of delicious, healthy, fun snacks to choose from (including our beloved Almond Butter Balls). She even has 101 uses for yogurt - a snack option that I didn't even begin to touch on here.
Now, tell me...what's on your snack list?