Making Snack Time Healthier

Like every other small child, my son loves to snack. He gets hungry during the hours between breakfast, lunch, and dinner and probably eats more during snack time than during meal time. I try to keep his snacks healthy, but we are not always home when he needs one and I often don’t have the time to make anything too elaborate. Reaching for something already in a bag and ready to eat is just so much easier, plus I know that he will most likely eat it. And the snacks that they sell at the grocery store are just so convenient to grab off of the shelf. This is why snack time is usually the time of day in which kids get a big helping of sugar and processed foods. They are easy, they taste good, and they are marketed to kids.

You would think that kid’s snacks would be made more nutritious because I know we all want our kids to be healthy. But kid’s snacks are among the worst of the processed foods. They are filled dyes, preservatives, processed flours, artificial flavors, and sugar. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find a pre-made children’s snack that has no refined sugar. And I don’t just mean the sweet gummies and cookies and toaster pastries, things like Goldfish and cheerios, snacks that are disguised as healthy alternatives contain sugar and processed ingredients. Dominik has had his fair share of cheerios, of course, but I wish that it was easier and more affordable to find healthier prepackaged options.

It doesn’t help that kids’ snacks are advertised, boxed, and created to be fun. Goldfish are adorable with their fish shape and little smiles. There are bright and fun characters on boxes of sugar-packed crackers and cookies. Fun cartoons and bright packaging make chips and Cheetos more enticing. Add in some entertaining commercials for junk snack food and kids are begging their parents to buy them the snacks.

Taking the time to read the ingredients, making big batches of things ahead, and just being the one to pick out and provide healthier snacks goes a long way in helping kids to eat better. I notice a big difference in Dominik’s behavior when he’s had a snack that is high in sugar and dyes. He’s irritable and wild. So giving him a snack that has clean and nutritious ingredients  goes far beyond just getting some vitamins in him. Here are 10 healthy kids snacks to get you started:

  1. Healthier Crackers: Crackers like “Ak Mak” have no processed ingredients and no sugar and are great to grab for a quick and relatively mess free snack. Healthier crackers are practically impossible to find in a typical grocery store and usually require a trip to a health food store.
  2. Vegetables and hummus: Hummus is pretty easy to find these days and makes a delicious high protein snack. Add some vegetables like carrots and mini bell peppers for dipping for added nutrition. This is a favorite around here.
  3. Apples and peanut butter: There’s something magical about the combination of apples and peanut butter. This vitamin and protein rich snack tastes sweet enough to satisfy those sugar cravings. For kiddos with nut allergies, seed butters like tahini or sunflower seed butter are delicious too.
  4. Toast with avocado slices: A good whole grain bread like the Ezekiel brand provides a ton of nutrients and fiber from the grains while the avocado has fantastic healthy fats. Some salt and pepper on top makes it perfect.
  5. Green smoothies: A smoothie is such a great way to get a bunch of healthy foods into one thing. Start with a base of almond or oat milk, then add fruit like bananas and strawberries. Add greens like spinach or kale for some veggies and finish it off with a super food like chia seeds. Blend with ice for a nutritious and crowd pleasing snack.
  6. Homemade Trail Mix: Most trail mixes seem to have something sugary, like candy or sugar covered dried fruit. So, I like to make my own using a bigger variety of nuts and seeds. It’s easy to grab a bag to fill up when we are headed out, and keeps well in the diaper bag. We like: almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. Sometimes I throw in some dried banana chips or raisins with no added sugar.
  7. Seaweed packs: Dried seaweed has suddenly become super popular as a snack food. Sea vegetables are highly nutritious and fun to eat. Sometimes I make rice to go with it, but a package of seaweed is great to throw in the car when we are running errands.
  8. Dairy free yogurt with berries: Although most yogurts have tons of sugar added, they do sell plain soy, almond, or coconut based yogurt. To sweeten it up, I’ll put some berries in it, smash them up, and then mix them in.
  9. Chips and salsa: Because corn is so often a GMO vegetable, I like to stick to organic tortilla chips. Look for chips with as few ingredients as possible, as they really only need corn, salt, and sometimes some lime. When buying a jar of salsa, be sure to read ingredient labels, sugar is very often added. Trader Joe’s makes great organic chips and salsa made with only whole food ingredients.
  10. Homemade breads and muffins: When you make zucchini bread or blueberry muffins at home, you are typically using whole foods ingredients and skipping the preservatives, unhealthy oils, and extra sugar. Making a big batch of muffins or bread and then freezing them makes for a quick, healthy, and super easy snack.
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