Cranberry Yogurt Parfaits</br>Photography by Jeff Coulson Credits: Cranberry Yogurt Parfaits</br>Photography by Jeff Coulson
When giving kids the responsibility of pulling together their own snacks, make sure you start with a healthy foundation, says Toronto nutritionist Theresa Albert.
For starters, discourage over-snacking. Kids need one or two snacks per day, tops. "Also, snacks should be as low as possible in calories -- about 100. You really should make sure kids get their food calories from actual meals," says Albert.
Parents should also limit their kids' intake of convenience-food "snack pack" products, which create excess garbage, and tend to be low in nutritional benefits even if they are marketed in 100-calorie portions, says Albert.
And don't discount the importance of encouraging from-scratch snack making. "It helps kids realize good food takes effort, and that it's worth it to put that effort in," says Albert. This lesson will serve them well as adults, since from-scratch meals are healthier than convenience foods and restaurant meals.
Here are 10 healthy snacks kids can whip up for themselves.
"It's quite simple: Fruit's the best snack. You can't lose with fruit," says Albert. Although some fruits earn super-food status due to their high-fibre, high-antioxidant, low-sugar content (Hello: blackberries, blueberries and raspberries), any and all fruits rock!
Keep your fruit bowl and fridge crisper stocked so kids can just choose, rinse and eat. Pre-slice melons and mangoes, and keep them in Tupperware, so they're good to go. (If your kids have many extracurricular activities, re-usable single-serving containers filled with fruit chunks make eating on the run fast and healthy.)
Berries should be washed just before eating (pre-washing can cause spoilage), but frozen berries are perfect to consume out of the bag, icy or after a short thaw.
Tip: Remind kids to rinse fruit for as long as it takes to hum Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, in order to minimize the threat from nasties like e. coli or pesticide residue.
2. Fruit dip
True: not all kids are fruit maniacs. But Albert's nutritious, hemp-based Chocolate Protein Spread, used as a dip will get even the fruit-averse digging in like monkeys. Healthy snacks can be fun and tasty, too!
If your kids love baby carrots, keep them in heavy rotation. But add other options, too. Pre-wash, slice, and store veggies like cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, even fennel bulbs, and stash them in Tupperware, letting kids plate what they want.
Avoid abusing ranch dressing, though. This high-fat, high-sodium dip should be spooned in limited amounts only. Better yet, see if your kids will accept alternatives like plain or seasoned yogurt, a few flakes of Maldon sea salt and lemon, or a nutritious bean-based dip like hummus.
4. Extraterrestrial Tuna Sandwiches
Whip up a half-batch of this tuna sandwich filling with your kids, and then store it in the fridge (for up to three days) so they can fill mini whole-wheat pita pockets after school. Each pita clocks in at 62 calories, so one would be perfect with a side of baby carrots.
5. Air-popped popcorn
Plain is ideal, but savoury seasonings make popcorn more attractive to diehard potato chip fans. One of the better choices is Kernels' 'Oh Canadian Cheddar', which adds just 30 calories and 290mg of sodium, provided kids stick to two teaspoons of powder. A dusting of cinnamon is another tasty option.
6. Homemade ice cream
Well, not really. But a frozen, pureed banana is a pretty good imposter. Keep peeled, very-ripe bananas in the freezer; blend one in a food processor with a scoop of unsweetened frozen berries. Use a drizzle of milk for blending and voila -- the healthiest 'ice cream' your child will ever dig into. Scale your level of supervision to your child's maturity level.
Breakfast for snack-time? Sure! Refreshing cold milk (whether low-fat dairy or soy) makes whole-grain, low-sugar cereal a great snack on hot days.
8. Yogurt parfait
Kids can layer low-fat Greek yogurt with frozen berries for a fruity, high-calcium treat. Try to wean your kids off hyper-sweetened sweet treats, by taking unsweetened yogurt and adding just a slight drizzle of pure honey or maple syrup.
9. Hard-boiled eggs
Keep ‘em in the fridge as a handy peel-n-go snack. Preschoolers love (or hate!) peeling them!
10. Asian greens
Sushi-loving junior gourmands may fall for the wholesome crunch of dried nori sheets. Older tweens and teens can flash-boil edamame (soy beans in their shell), and enjoy them with a dash of sea salt. Nori and edamame are widely available in Asian specialty stores and larger supermarkets.
Finding healthy snacks doesn't have to mean your kids have to chomp on celery all day long. These 10 healthy snacks offer variety and are sure to keep both kids and parents happy.