Yes, yes, yes I know. Back to school snacks. Broken record. We’ve heard this one before. Nonetheless, they are important to review. But not just to review. I’m going to help you understand how to modify snacks in order to best meet your child’s needs AND keep them healthy. You might be thinking, “why is this so important?”. Well let me enlighten you.
A report from 2010 reveals a large increase in snacking among children. Since the early 1990s, snacking has moved to at least 3 times a day and makes up at least 27% of children’s total daily calories. The worst part about it is the report shows the majority of these snacks come from salty snacks, candy, desserts, and sweetened beverages.
This is especially concerning with the rate of overweight and obese U.S. children tripling since the 1970s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in every 5 school-aged children (ages 6-19) has obesity. With this research in mind, it is clear that snacking in our day-to-day busy lifestyles is not going away anytime soon, but the need to make these snacks healthy is crucial for the health of children.
Not only that, but every child is unique and comes with their own set of taste preferences or potentially even health conditions. This can make it difficult for parents to know how to adjust snacks to meet the child’s needs while still remaining healthy. Here a few tricks to improving children’s snacks while overcoming common barriers to keeping snacks healthy.
Check out the WZZM audio guide here.
- Whole grain tortillas with banana or peaches and nut butter
- Add chia seeds, ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, or popped quinoa to homemade granola bars or energy balls (this can also double for protein as well!). These can also be added to hot or cold cereal, smoothies, baked goods, puddings, etc.
- Flaxseed, ground:
- 2 Tbsp= 70 calories, 3 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams protein
- Chia seeds:
- 2 Tbsp= 130 calories, 9 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams protein
- Flaxseed, ground:
- When in a pinch and need to buy granola bars, use these guidelines (assuming one serving is one bar):
- <200 calories
- 3 or more grams of fiber
- 4 or more grams of protein
- <8g of sugar
- Popcorn to trail mix
Fruits and Vegetables:
- Use Ranch dressing packet with plain Greek yogurt for dipping instead of regular Ranch dressing when serving with vegetables
- Beet or sweet potato chips. Not enough time to make your own? Try Terra No Salt Added Sweets and Beets vegetable chips.
- Spiralize vegetables, such as zucchini or squash, to stand alone or pair with regular spaghetti noodles in pasta dishes
- Popsicles using 100% fruit juice
- Incorporate high water content fruits and vegetables as much as possible:
- Watermelon, cucumber, grapefruit, orange, cantaloupe
- Popsicles using Greek yogurt
- For the athlete, add protein powder, nuts or nut butters, or seeds (pumpkin or sesame) to homemade granola bars and energy balls
- Add chia seeds, nuts, or seeds to Greek yogurt
Baked Beet Rosemary Chips
- 3 medium-large beets, rinsed and scrubbed
- Olive or canola oil
- Pinch each sea salt + black pepper
- 2-3 sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and place oven rack in the center of the oven.
- Thinly slice beets with a mandolin (or a sharp knife), getting them as consistently thin as possible. They should curl a little when cut. This will ensure even baking and crispiness.
- Divide between two baking sheets and spray or very lightly drizzle with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and the rosemary. Toss to coat. Then arrange in a single layer, making sure the slices aren’t touching.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crispy and slightly brown. Be sure to watch closely past the 15 minute mark as they can burn quickly.
- Remove from oven. Let cool. Then serve.
Homemade Protein Bars
Yield: 16-18 bars
- 1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
- 3 Tbsp. chia seeds
- ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
- 1-2 scoops whey protein powder (I used 2 packets of Rootz Nutrition chocolate banana nut)
- 1 Tbsp. 100% cacao powder
- 2 Tbsp. dark chocolate chips, chopped
- ¼ cup honey
- Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl until evenly distributed.
- Stir in honey. You may need to use your hands here to combine into a compact ball.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the bar mixture on the baking sheet evenly in thickness and firmly to reduce crumbling.
- Freeze for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove and cut into bars.
- Can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer in a plastic bag.
Homemade Orange Dreamsicles
Yield: 6-8 popsicles
Prep time: 15-20 minutes (depending on your additional flavorings), Freeze time: 2-3 hours
Equipment needed: popsicle molds
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp. sunflower honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp 100% orange juice or juice from 1/2 an orange
- Orange zest from 1/2 an orange (~1 Tbsp.)
- 1/4 cup fresh orange, chopped into chunks (use half for blending and half for color in the molds)
- Combine the yogurt, honey, vanilla, coconut milk, orange juice, and zest in the blender or Ninja and blend until smooth.
- Fill each mold about 3/4 full and add fresh orange chunks.
- Place in the freezer. After 10 minutes, insert popsicle sticks into each mold. Freeze for at least 2-3 hours.
- To remove the popsicles from the molds, fill your kitchen sink with lukewarm (not hot!) water high enough to reach at least 3/4 the way up the side of the popsicle mold. Place the mold in the water for 30 seconds and then place on a kitchen towel on the counter. Remove the metal top from the mold. Wiggle the popsicle stick slightly and firmly pull up. If they are a little stubborn to come out, then place the mold back in the water for another 10 seconds (no longer!) and try again. Use 10-second intervals if the popsicles are still difficult to remove. Do not place in for longer, otherwise the tip of the popsicle will start to melt.
- Once the popsicles are removed, serve immediately or place in a plastic gallon freezer bag and store in the freezer.