This post will be published on Friday, January 25th in the Press Democrat.
“There’s nothing to eat!” my son lamented as he stood in front of the open refrigerator door. This was, of course, a lie. We had just gone shopping and the refrigerator was packed full of all kinds of food. What my son probably meant, however, was that there were no foods he could easily grab and go. He wanted something like a handful of chips, a granola bar, those conveniently wrapped fun-size snacks with artificial colors and flavors, or anything that had lots of sugar or fat that took no effort at all.
But if that food were in the house, my son would eat way too much of it. I know this about him. I also know this about me. If convenient foods are sitting around the house, we’ll both end up eating those before the healthier choices, and eat way more calories in the process.
However, the fact remains that snacks are meant to be a quick bite in between meals. They SHOULD be convenient. Here are some ideas for grab-and-go snack without sacrificing the healthfulness.
Celery and peanut butter. This has become one of our favorite snacks ever. I usually spread peanut butter in more celery than I need, and then store it in several serving size containers so that my son can just grab one and start snacking away. That satisfying crunch makes this a fun snack to have, and the peanut butter helps to take away the bitterness of the celery. If the celery is just too “icky” to your child, just substitute apple slices with peanut butter on it. If your child is allergic to or doesn’t like peanut butter, swap out cream cheese or sunflower seed spread.
Plain yogurt and toppings. My kid has discovered Greek yogurt. What a wonderful thing to discover! It’s so full of protein and goodness, it keeps him full for much longer than the ice cream he thought he was craving. Keep it healthy and fun by getting a large container of plain Greek yogurt and separating it into smaller containers. Add a small dollop of jam or honey, and a choice of toppings nearby. Good ideas for toppings include chopped up nuts, a handful of granola, or some fresh fruit.
Green smoothies. I’ll admit that my kids turned their noses up at these drinks at first look. But at first taste? They are hooked! And these snacks are super easy to make and very healthy. Our favorite is to take a bunch of kale and some frozen mango and mix it thoroughly in the blender with coconut water. There is no sugar in this at all! The ratio of kale and fruit can vary depending on taste, but the point is to get a good amount of greens in them. My kids now request these healthy drinks often, and they are filling enough to even use as their breakfast.
Quiche muffins. One of the things I’m trying to limit in our house is the amount of empty carbs we eat. Muffins were always one of my favorite go-to snacks to bake up for the kids. But they just aren’t as filling or nutritious as I’d like them to be. So when I came across muffins made mostly from eggs at the blog smellslikebrownies.com, I was delighted! And it’s very easy. (*See recipe below)
Make healthy substitutions. Did you know that one flour tortilla has more calories than a slice of bread? By switching to corn tortillas or small wheat tortillas, you can actually cut your calories in half. A glass of juice can hold as much sugar as a can of soda. But eating a piece of fruit can still give the same sweet taste without being artificially sweetened. A handful of chips can add lots of fat, salt, and empty carbs to your kids diet, and only leave them craving more afterwards. If your child is looking for a salty snack fix, consider lightly salted roasted pumpkin seeds instead. You can even pop your own popcorn with light oil instead of the highly buttered version popped in a microwave.
Make healthy food convenient. If you keep carrots or celery cut up in the fridge, it makes it easier for your kid to grab it for a snack. Always keep a healthy supply of fruit within their reach, and include a few fun choices around when in season, like cherries of cut up strawberries.
*Crustless Mini Quiches
1/2 head broccoli, cut into stems and florets
2/3 cup spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1.5 cups milk
Salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a regular muffin tin with cooking spray.
Blanch the broccoli, then drain very thoroughly.
Layer the broccoli, chopped spinach, and cheese into the muffin cups. Cups should be nearly full with veggies and cheese.
Whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until smooth and slightly frothy. Pour over the vegetables, filling the muffin cups about 3/4 full.
Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the tops are slightly puffed and golden.