May 11, 2012 by mamacravings
Healthy snacking is a challenge. The pre-packaged options tend to be full of everything we don’t need. Preparing snacks at home does take thinking ahead of time and some preparation, but it can be more cost-effective and better for the family’s health.
In my healthy lunches post, I touched on my definition of the word healthy. To me, food is healthy if it has purpose. For baby Eli, I steer away from empty calories and excess ingredients. I look for a balance of fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein and whole grains. This applies to both meal time and snack time.
The more portable the better.
Many times, snacking is on the go…well, at least it is with my 2 year-old. He seems to stay in a constant state of ravenous hunger. I dare say his most used sentence during a 24-hour period is “Mama, I so hun-grin!” It even tops “I p’ay wif you ou’side, my Mama.” and “I sings you a song.” Snacking is very important in our household.
To keep baby Eli stocked with snacks, they have to be portable. They must fit in a diaper bag to be whipped out at any mentions of being “hungrin”.
I have invested quite heavily in individual sized Rubbermaid containers. These easily hold petit carrots, raisins, whole-wheat crackers or apple slices.
Pre-packaged snacks also offer the great benefit of portability. When I shop for things pre-packaged, I am an avid label reader. I have found that “all natural” or the little checks of approval mean very little. My rule is if I don’t recognize the ingredient or can’t pronounce, then Eli isn’t eating it.
The puree pouches are one of Eli’s favorite snacks. I like them because I can get a combo of fruit and vegetables in the same puree. Many of them have half of a serving of fruits and half of a serving of vegetables in one pouch. It’s a great way to cram a bit of extra veggies in his diet. We all know how I feel about cramming vegetables; I am a fan.
I steer away from the fruit leathers unless we are in high need of portability and convenience. The sticky fruit leather is hard on the kid’s teeth. It will leave a sticky residue that can lead to decay. We eat these snacks in moderation.
The more colorful the better.
Kids gravitate towards things that are colorful. This applies to what they eat as well. Produce naturally is very interesting in its array of colors. Snack time can be an opportunity to “play” with foods and colors. If he/she is old enough, ask your little one what color snack is wanted for the day. If green is the theme: offer kiwi, green grapes and snap peas.
This type of grouping can be a gateway to new foods. Little ones can be intimidated by newer items. I always introduce a new food with a familiar food. This pairing can inspire a more adventurous spirit. I will also offer new food or previously “gucky” foods in a new way. I offered Eli sweet potatoes peeled, unpeeled, cubed, as a puree and mashed before he finally wanted anything to do with them.
The more dip-able the better.
For kids, there is something magical about being able to dip food into a condiment. Perhaps it’s the fun of the potential mess or the resemblance to painting. Either way, they love it. However, dips tend to be high in sugar. Finding a healthier alternative can be a challenge. We have become a big fan of using Greek yogurt as a dip.
It is versatile and full of protein and calcium. Eli dips bell pepper strips and carrots in plain Greek yogurt. He likes to dip strawberries, bananas and grapes into Greek yogurt with just a touch of local honey (Please note that honey is not recommended for children under the age of 12 months.).
In searching for healthy snacks for the family, I have found it to be worth the extra prep time. It is healthier. It is more cost-effective. And it allows for great learning opportunities and quality time with baby Eli.
What is your go-to snack for your family?