Healthy Snacks Your Kids (and You) Will Love

Chow on 08.26.11
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Now that the kids are back at school, it is time to re-think snack time. Many parents have to pack a morning snack for younger children and have to be creative and time efficient with after-school snacks as well. My daughter, Lilia, is starting pre-school this week (yes, I am terrified -- mothers can suffer from first-day-of-school nerves too!), so I need to make sure to have some great packable snack ideas ready for our new, slightly more hectic morning routine. 

As a passionate foodie mama, I consider snack time a perfect opportunity to add nutrition to my daughter's daily diet. Snacks are just as important as meals. I like to refer to them as mini meals.  Snacks fill in nutritional gaps by adding extra calories from protein, carbs, and fats and can be packed with vitamins and minerals. I recommend keeping snacks scheduled, just like meals, so your kids can expect to be fed at certain times. This will limit grazing and keep bellies satisfied.

When planning snack foods, a good rule of thumb is to include a grain or fruit/veggie with a protein or healthy fat.  This combination will keep your kid's blood sugar stable and keep them satisfied until their next meal.  Aim for a balanced snack with three different food groups. Also, a little pre-planning can go a long way. Try planning your snacks like you would plan your dinners.

Fruits and Vegetables

girl eating watermelon

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1. Ants on a Log: Celery with peanut butter and raisins. This classic has it all, fruit, veggie, protein, and fat.

2. Sweet Potato Fries and Yogurt or Ranch Dip: Baked sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A and Beta- Carotene and are fun to dip.

3. Kale Chips: Baked kale with a little tamari makes eating greens fun and delicious.  Pair these with some crackers and cheese for a balanced snack.

4. Guacamole Dip:  This tangy green dip is easy for kids to help make and tastes great with veggies, tortillas, or tortilla chips.

5. Fruit Salad: Try using cookie cutters to create fun shapes.  Also, using low-fat yogurt as a fruit dip adds extra calcium and protein.

Protein

peanuts

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6. Egg and Tuna Salad: High in protein and omega-3s.  Eat in a pita with veggies or on whole wheat crackers.
Cheese and Crackers: String cheese or cut up cubes are a great source of calcium. Pair this snack with 100% fruit juice to be more complete.

7. Tofu:  Tofu can be marinated with a variety of flavors and cubed for a tasty protein alternative to meat. Add to a sandwich or salad for a twist.

8. Diced Chicken: Cook extra meat at dinner to cube for snacks. Add to a tortilla with cheese for a quick and easy protein packed snack.

9. Nut Butter and Fruit: Pair peanut, almond, or cashew butter with sliced fruit. This snack has healthy fat and protein along with extra vitamins from fruit.

10. Bean Dip and Whole Wheat Tortilla Wedges: Loads of fiber and protein; also delicious in a wrap with cheese.

11. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese and Whole Wheat Crackers: High in protein and calcium, cottage cheese is easy for kids to help themselves.

On -The -Go

Boys eating at soccer

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12. Nuts or Tail Mix: Try making your own with a mix of nuts, dried fruit, coconut, and sugar-free granola.

13. Oatmeal to Go: These low- sugar treats are great to make on a Sunday or activity-free evening.

14. Pita Bread Sandwich with Cream Cheese and Carrots: I like to grate carrots and add them to the inside of the pita with cream cheese spread. They add a bit of sweetness and a punch of Vitamin A.

Healthy Treats

Boy eating cookie

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Snack time does not always have to include fruits and veggies. Occasionally, give your kids a sweet treat like cookies with milk. You can always add extra fruit, raisins, and nuts to cookies for a healthy kick. Check out my article on managing sweets.

15. Muffins: Kids love to help bake. Make your own muffins with extra fruit and nuts and you can reduce fat by using applesauce. Pair a muffin with low-fat milk for extra calcium.

16. Homemade Popsicles: I like to make smoothies and freeze them in popsicle molds for a fast frozen treat

17. Rice Pudding: Especially home-made with fresh fruit for extra vitamins.

18. Carrot Cupcakes: The carrots make these sweet treat  more wholesome. You can also add raisins or nuts for a more nutritious snack.

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