What kids will eat is dependent upon what they’ve been offered and/or exposed to. If you are feeding your kids processed snacks with sugar, salt and fat, they will learn to crave those snacks! If you are giving your kids chicken nuggets one day, a small amount of chips the next day, ice cream the following day- you’ve now given your kids processed snacks three days in a row! Here are some suggestions for healthy swaps-that kids will enjoy!
- Swap fruit cups for real, whole fruit or make your own fruit cups. Berries and a peeled mandarin orange turn into a fruit cup in a jiffy. Slice in an apple, banana or pear and bolster the nutrition. Store bought “no sugar” fruit cups can contain some sort of artificial or lowered calorie sweetener and preservatives.
- Instead of chips or pretzels, try snap peas, peppers, celery and carrot sticks with hummus.
- Use whole wheat tortillas to make sandwich wraps. They are different and “fun” for kids and add fiber. Roll them into little pinwheels or stuff them with vegetables and hummus.
- Make your own popcorn and flavor it with whatever kind of spice you want! Make it pumpkin spice, parmesan black pepper, fresh herbs, or chili powder- all can be delicious. You control the type and amount of oil, the popcorn and the toppings.
- Any home baked good is better than any packaged baked good. It’s very easy to make a double batch of oatmeal raisin cookies. You can lower the sugar, add spices, dried fruit, or nuts. Freeze them and then take out 2-3 at a time for each kid.
- Take a hint from the adult charcuterie board trend and lose the Luncheables! Kids like to pick and choose finger foods that are interesting and delicious, so why not make a junior sized charcuterie board? You can use whole wheat crackers, your choice of cheese, nuts, dried fruits, little slices of leftover meat from dinner and even a few cooks dried beans can go into a kid size lunch box.
- You can always keep items like roasted nuts, seeds and dried fruit on hand for quick and delicious energy in place of any snack. Remember to portion control!
- Any type of yogurt will have less sugar and more nutrition than a pudding cup. Yogurt does have sugar in it, however choosing a Greek low fat or nonfat yogurt will have protein and calcium in it. The pudding cup has sugar, artificial flavor and often preservatives.
- Swap out soft-drinks and packaged juice with herbal teas which contain antioxidants. Herbal teas offer the benefit of the plant chemicals in the tea (think ginger spice, echinacea, elderberry). Water bottles with infusing cups are a way to add nutrition and taste. Kids love to select what they will have in the little infuser basket (berries, herbs, whole spices). A sprig of rosemary and a few allspice berries expose kids to wonderful flavors and phytochemicals.
- Instead of frozen pizza, make an English muffin or tortilla pizza with sauce, cheese and veggie toppings.
- Instead of “chips and dip”, serve non-GMO chips with homemade guacamole or homemade salsa. Guac is nothing more than a smashed avocado with garlic, lime and cilantro. Let your kids do the smashing!
- Swap out “bars” that have a long list of ingredients with Kind or Rx bars which have a few ingredients.
- Instead of snack crackers, make and freeze falafel. Pop it in the air fryer or bake it for a fast hearty sack. You can also purchase frozen falafel. Try brands til you find one you like.
Remember, fiber, protein and fat keep kids feeling satisfied longer. Snacks should be a small portion of food to meet calorie and nutrition needs. They are not meals! Try the above suggestions and transition your family to healthier habits.