By Breanna Woods, Contributing blogger
Whether it's summertime or the school year, snacks are important for little tummies because they help keep kids from becoming hungry and cranky before meals. Older kids benefit from snacks too, so they don’t overeat at mealtime.
However, it’s important to choose healthy snacks because a large part of a child’s daily nutrients come from snacks. Snack time is an opportunity to help your child make healthy choices, and maybe even sneak in a serving or two of fruits and veggies.
Many of the packaged snacks marketed for kids are processed and full of sugar. The best snack choices are low in salt, sugar and minimally processed. Serve portions that are just enough to satisfy hunger without making a child feel too full. Remember to keep timing in mind, too! Try not to serve snacks less than an hour before meals.
Fiber is important for heart and digestive health. Most people (including adults) don’t eat enough fiber throughout the day. Serve high fiber foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables at snack time.
Remember, snack time should be fun!
Use snack time as a way to teach your kids about food and get them involved in the kitchen. This is especially important if you have a picky eater on your hands. For example, if your kids have a positive experience making fun snacks with vegetables, they will be more likely to eat them. Keep snacks simple and fun, and maybe even make snacks with your kids as an activity.
Try these healthy snack ideas with your kids:
Cool down on a hot summer day with refreshing and healthy smoothies. This is a snack that you can let your kids be creative with. Use a variety of fruits and veggies to try different smoothie flavors. Use milk or protein-packed plain Greek yogurt as a base for your smoothie and add frozen banana or avocado for extra creaminess. Try this recipe for a chocolate berry smoothie to get started:
- 1 cup milk
- ½ frozen banana
- ½ c berries
- ½ c spinach
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? It’s true! Corn provides the benefits of whole grains, even in its popped form. Spare the salt and pop your own kernels or buy bagged popcorn with no added salt. Then, experiment with flavors using other seasonings or cheese, or by mixing popcorn into trail mix.
Nuts are crunchy, filling and nutritious. They are packed with fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as some protein, vitamins and minerals. If your kids aren’t crazy about nuts on their own, try them crushed up in a crunchy topping like granola, or as part of a tasty trail mix.
Popsicles are another cool summer treat that are both fun and healthy for your kids. No worries if you don’t have popsicle molds - just use small paper cups! Simply fill with 100% fruit juice, or a mix of blended fruits and veggies. Don’t forget a stick for eating this vitamin C-rich snack.
Yogurt is a quick and easy snack for kids that also has a number of health benefits. Not only is yogurt a good source of calcium and vitamin D, but it can also be a great source of protein. In fact, a serving of Greek yogurt can serve up as much as 20 grams of protein. Choose a yogurt with less than 12 grams of sugar per serving. Top with berries and a sprinkle of nuts, coconut or granola for an extra crunch!
The best thing about this kid-friendly snack is that it’s freezer-friendly. Energy bites are also healthy, versatile and require only one bowl to make. Bonus - no baking required!
Most recipes use a fiber-rich and whole grain base such as oats, as well as a protein-packed binder like nut butter. Some mix in dates, which are packed with fiber. Finish them up with a little honey for sweetness, and whatever add-ins you want to try. Here’s a recipe to get you started:
- 1 ½ c old fashioned oats
- ½ c ground flax seed
- 1 T chia seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ⅓ c unsweetened coconut flakes
- ½ c honey
- ½ c almond butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ c dark chocolate chips
Just mix the ingredients, and form into balls. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or keep some in the freezer for easy snacking.
Banana “Nice” Cream
This sweet treat requires only one ingredient: bananas. Slice and freeze ripe bananas before blending them into a dupe for soft serve ice cream so good, your kids won’t even guess it’s healthy.
Pro-tip: mix in a little peanut butter or cocoa powder for added flavor.
Fun Snacks with Dips
If your little one turns up his or her nose to veggies, try letting them experiment with dips. Not only does dip add flavor to veggies that might otherwise taste bitter, but they add a sense of play to snack time. Try a variety of dips such as hummus, guacamole, salsa and ranch.
Toast doesn’t have to be boring. Choose a tasty spread for your whole grain toast such as ricotta, cream cheese, hummus or peanut butter. Then, sprinkle with raisins, nuts, or thinly sliced fruit or veggies. This snack checks all the boxes!
Image courtesy of Culinary Hill
This healthy and easy snack, also known as a pinwheel, is perfect for little hands. Start with a whole wheat tortilla, and pile on toppings such as deli meat, tomato, avocado or cheese. Keep these in the fridge so they’re ready to go when your little ones are craving a snack.
The sweet version of this snack is delicious and healthy too. Instead of loading up your tortilla with savory toppings, spread peanut butter on the tortilla and place a banana in the center. Then, roll and slice. The peanut butter is filling and the banana adds healthy fiber and vitamins.
Try some of these healthy ideas to keep snack time interesting. Most importantly, remember to have fun!