Providing healthful snacks for children can be a challenging task. It is easy to fall into a snack rut where you feel like you are serving the same snacks over and over again. Providing a variety of snacks is important both nutritionally and for enjoyment in eating for children. Ideally snacks should be a combination of carbohydrate and either protein or a healthy fat and are generally around 100-200 calories. Healthy carbohydrates can come from a variety of foods including whole grains, fruits, dairy, and starchy vegetables. When paired alongside protein and healthy fats, children are provided with extra energy, nutrients, and satiety until meal time. In addition, snacks are typically eaten 2 hours after a meal, and grazing throughout the day should be discouraged in order to facilitate healthy eating habits.
During the holidays, health snacking can be problematic due holiday parties, gatherings, and travel. Try to:
– Plan ahead: Prepare portable, healthy snacks that don’t need refrigeration and can be eaten in the car, on an airplane, or at a holiday party. See below for ideas.
– Keep a routine as much as possible. Continue meals, snacks, naps, etc. on your child’s normal schedule. Children are easily over-stimulated during the holidays which can lead to poor behavior. Keep consistency in your child’s life as much as possible for your child during the holiday season.
– Limit sugar: Limit children to their choice of one ‘treat’ per day during holiday parties. Sugary treats should only be allowed after meal time.
Fruit Squeeze Pouches – Choose organic when possible, made of only fruits and vegetables with no added ingredients.
Fruit – Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, cherries, and berries can all be prepped ahead of time and be eaten on the go.
Vegetables – raw asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery
Nuts & Seeds- almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, squash seeds
Whole grain crackers – Look for crackers made with minimal ingredients, without high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.
Popcorn – Air-pop your own popcorn at home and separate into individual bags. Add a small amount of salt or seasonings for additional flavor.
Smoothies – Incorporate a mixture of fruits and vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, or others your child may not normally want to eat). Fruits can mask the taste of many vegetables in smoothies.
Cheese – Try string cheese, cheese sticks, or block cheese. Using a small cookie cutter, make fun shapes out of the cheese and pair alongside fruit chunks on a skewer. Choose organic cheese and other dairy when possible.
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables – peas, carrots, grapes, cherries, berries, bananas
Homemade Popsicles –use the smoothies mentioned above as the ingredients for the popsicles.
Baked Garbanzo Beans – Drain, rinse, and blot with a paper towel, then drizzle olive oil and season lightly with salt or other seasonings. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until brown and crunchy.
Cottage cheese with fruit such as peaches, pears, pineapple, berries.
Yogurt – Try plain yogurt with a teaspoon of honey for sweetness. (Honey is not recommended for infants under 1 year old). Choose organic yogurt and other dairy when possible.
Yogurt Squeeze Tubes – Freeze yogurt tubes for a frozen yogurt treat.
Homemade granola bars
Whole grain tortilla chips with guacamole, salsa, or vegetables.
Hummus – serve with fresh vegetables
Hard boiled eggs
Parfait – organic yogurt with low-sugar granola and fresh or frozen fruit.
Applesauce – Choose organic with no added sugar.