Last week I wrote about the importance of providing children with regular meals and snacks. Now it’s time to discuss the making of a healthy snack. Remember, eating between meals not only helps children meet their nutrition needs; it provides a bridge to the next meal.
The goal is to make a snack more like a mini meal. That means including a balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat to help manage hunger and satisfy. So check out the food combinations below – it just might inspire you to come up with your own ideas.
1. Yogurt AND nuts, fruit or cereal. Yogurt is a great food for kids and even better when you add sliced almonds, fresh fruit or whole grain cereal. Look for yogurts with the Live and Active culture seal.
2. Whole wheat crackers AND cheese or peanut butter. One of my favorite cracker brands is Kashi’s TLC Original 7 Grain. It is great with cubed cheddar, a mozzarella cheese stick or even some peanut butter. Remember that peanut butter is a choking hazard for young children so use with caution and spread thin.
3. Fresh Fruit AND cubed cheese, milk or peanut butter. Fruit is a nutrient-rich snack but it doesn’t contain much fat or protein. Add some cheese, milk or peanut butter to help round it out.
4. Cereal AND milk or soy milk. Cereal doesn’t have to be just for breakfast. It makes an easy-to-prepare snack when combined with milk or a milk alternative. Look for cereals that are low in sugar with at least a good source of fiber (3 grams per serving)
5. Whole wheat bread or Pita AND deli meat/cheese, tuna or peanut butter/jelly. Mini sandwiches make a great in-between meal.
6. Raw veggies AND hummus, ranch, guacamole or any yogurt-based dip. Kids love to dip. Try cut up carrots, sugar snap peas, bell pepper or cucumber with your choice of dips. Remember that raw veggies can be choking hazards so if your child is not ready to eat them used steamed veggies or cut them very thin.
7. Muffins or sweet bread made with nuts. If you make your own muffins or sweet bread at home you can modify the recipe to contain extra fruit, less sugar, less fat (with added applesauce) and more nuts. See this fruit and veggie muffin recipe.
8. Smoothies. Blend fresh fruit, yogurt, greens, 100% juice, and ice to make a refreshing smoothie.
9. Cookies and milk. Snack time doesn’t always have to be about fruits and vegetables. On occasion, make cookies with added raisins, nuts and oats.
10. Mini Pizzas. Take whole wheat English muffins and top with marinara sauce, grated cheese and any topping (veggies/meat). Put in the toaster oven and you have a tasty in-between-meal treat!
What a great list, thanks! I wanted to share something too for people with food allergies who perhaps cannot eat peanut butter. Or, also for kids who go to schools which are peanut free and tree nut free. There is a delicious product called Sunbutter which is a peanut butter alternative. Its a spread like peanut butter and has the same consistency. Read this blog posting for more details about the product. Its something you may want to consider when thinking about food allergies.
For kids who are not allergic to nuts: Gudernoobs made by WooHoo Foods is a great option. Wrapped to look like candy, but only made of dried fruit/nuts/flax (that’s it – no preservatives or anything!) and high in omega-3s!
As a nutritionist, and naturopath as well as mother of two grown children, I am appalled at what goes for “healthy” snacks these days. Children’s bodies cannot and should not be processing things such as non-organic crackers or processed cheeses. Unless peanut butter is organic and without salt it is a terrible idea to give to children…salty foods put a strain on young kidneys. The same goes for cereal…unless it is organic and sugar free (no i don’t mean with alternative sugars like splenda either) it should not be fed to children.
Healthy snacks should include things like fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, more digestible cheeses like cottage cheese if desired. Stay away from things with additives, preservatives, and all things processed…a healthy adult life begins with a healthy diet as a child. Nothing canned, nothing out of a box (like fruit juices)…By spending the time to make your child fresh vegetable juices (carrot, cucumber, lime, spinach is a great combo…try adding an apple for flavor) and fresh smoothies without sugar…fresh fake milkshakes by subbing almond milk or rice milk (you can make almond milk yourself at home…again try avoid things in packages) and frozen fruit are absolutely delicious and worry free. Children’s taste buds have not become accustomed to foods yet. If you start feeding them healthy raw foods from the beginning and never introducing them to junk you wont have a problem getting them to continue eating healthily…
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
HI Felecia — Thanks for your comment. I would love to see research showing that organic cheese is more digestable that other cheese as I have only seen research to support dairy from grassfed cows as having better nutrition profiles. How much salt will put a strain on kidneys? What does the research you read say about that?
I have interviewed dozens of childhood nutrition experts and not one recommends eliminating sugar from older kids diets. The research supports this as well — too restrictive or permissive feeding is associated with poor eating habits. So again, any research to substantiate what you recommend, both in terms of WHAT and HOW to feed a child, would be great!
(supports the no salt…of course futher research would have to be done on your part.
I based most of my children’s diets and the diets of clients on information from persons such as Doctor Norman Walker, some from Bragg’s and many others…more recent ones such as PH Miracle by: Dr. Robert and Shelley Young http://www.phmiracleliving.com/ – a very good read. There is a lot more information but those are just the ones on the top of my head.
Coming from a traditional meat-eating diet myself, and switching to a alkaline diet… mainly organic and without salt and sugar gave me personally more energy and less frequently ill. Havent been to a doctor in the past 25 years and neither have my childre (except of course for immunizations etc.) My children’s doctor also followed the diet closely as it was unusual and a first time for me. The children have impeccable health, have excelled both academically and athletically, not showing any form of lethargy or any such problems.
A child wont know you are restricting them unless you expose them to the foods that they arent eating. I kept such foods out of my house so as not to tempt them. If they are in school, simply explain to them why it is they are on this diet.
My daughter will comment later on how it affected her as soon as she can. 🙂 Its all about health…not restriction. For me it was hard and I can see why it may be perceived as hard by others…but for my children and the children of persons ive given consults…it is often easy for those who have never been introduced in the first place.
Hope this helps…the research will blow your mind. Such an interesting concept.
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Felecia — Because this is an evidence-based blog, I ask for research to support your claims. I’m talking about intervention studies that would prove the strong claims you make — and not a link to someone’s book or website. I have no problem if you decide to raise your children a certain way in regard to food because I have never claimed to have all the answers. But I don’t appreciate being questioned without support for what you saying. For example, if I am going to recommend organic cheese, which is expensive, I need evidence that it is indeed better.
No where on this site do I advocate high sodium diets for children or excess amount of processed food but rather finding a balance of all foods. It sounds like your kids experiemented too because that is what children do. I teach my children to manage all foods and it is working wonderfully. THis is what my site is about — real, practical advice for parents who are struggling. It sounds like my blog is not a good match for you and your beliefs which is fine. Thanks for stopping by and good luck.
Hi Ms. Jacobsen,
My mom (Felecia) told me to visit this site to give my insight on being raised on a special diet.
I would have to politely disagree with claims that it causes poor eating habits…or even that it makes a child feel restricted. Growing up, both my younger brother and I carried lunches to school, we ate differently from other kids but then every kid eats differently. No two diets are the same. I don’t ever remember feeling that I was restricted and was free to ask my mom why our diet was different. Her being real with me and explaining to both of us really helped. We were raised Vegan until age 10, and Vegetarian until age 18 for me (my 16 year old brother still is). But we were organic vegetarians…no unorganic dairy, no processed things, no chips, no sweets. When we went out of course we did dabble when we became older into things like ice cream, pizza, chocolate. At 18 I became a pescetarian by choice and added some of that junk like chips, pizza, processed stuff.
Now, when I go out, I am constantly conscious of what I am putting in my body. I am not unhealthy, I am not a binge eater, I don’t starve myself…but because I was brought up to KNOW that sticking to a healthier diet made me FEEL healthier and more alive…I try to stay that way. When I incorporated more junk…i felt sick more often, had less energy. The same for my brother.
I have never been severely sick. My mother also chose to use natural remedies so growing up panadol and advil were never used in the RARE case we were sick instead fresh made noni-juice and lemon etc…I remember being one of the few kids in my class who almost NEVER got sick.
I can see how you may think this is a special case. Not so.
My stepmother is now raising my 5 year old sister on a less strict pescetarian diet…but without the sugary foods, processed foods, and salt… I observe my sister…she doesn’t feel deprived or left out. She is the healthiest child I know. Pasta, veggies…are all fed to her without salt and with a touch of organic cheeses (TRY: http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/milk/) …practically “flavorless” but to a child whose taste-buds are just developing she finds them delicious. She doesn’t taste “bland” instead she is more perceptive to the natural flavors of what she’s eating.
As an adult, I am more in need of flavor…but I find that sweets, junk such as fastfood don’t ever appeal to me. In fact, when I eat on occasion (when DESPERATE) junk such as pizza or Burger King…I feel sick…almost nauseous like the food sits in my stomach…
I am not saying this diet is without limitations nor is it foolproof. If it was we wouldn’t get sick at all….but there is SO much knowledge available today about diet…and it has increased exponentially over the years.
I suggest for younger kids stay as CLOSE to nature as possible. I enjoyed snacks such as raisins and almonds and dates, frozen blueberries, fresh berries, grapes …the works. I LOVED my veggies. not all…NOT spinach…lol. But certainly most. And my vegetable juice…STILL cant do without it. I have a 16 ounce glass every morning as I wake…freshly juiced. And boy, does it give a kick-start to your day.
(try looking into Bragg’s liquid aminos…great on steamed veggies YUM and healthier than salt)
[email protected] snacks for kids says
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