If your kids are anything like mine, the family feast, holiday party, classroom celebration and overall sugar rush that descends from Thanksgiving through New Years can be a slippery, sugary slope of unhealthy abandon. In general, I prefer not to approach food with a “no to everything” or “yes to everything” attitude. As someone who has struggled with her fair share of “food noise” I want to help my daughters understand what food is, for long before they are bombarded by messages of what it is not. But at the holidays or any time there is a long string of celebrations I realize that my middle ground is a challenge. After all, even in the middle of a sugar bowl there is sugar.
When it comes to feeding my twin, 6 year-old daughters I apply three simple rules:
1. Talk about how food nourishes. Don’t focus on how it’s used as a punishment or a reward.
2. Always serve dessert, no matter how much or little they have eaten at dinner.
3. Eat everything in moderation.
These rules don’t change for me at the holidays, but the first part of the first rule finds its way into our daily conversation more and more. What is food for? What fills your belly and makes you feel less hungry? What do you eat that makes you run fast? Sure, sugar tastes great. I love it too. But all those parties we want to attend and friends we want to play with? We need a lot more than sugar to keep up.
With that said, even though the calendar is full of festivities, I make a point to throw in a few healthy options so we don’t find ourselves constantly making exceptions. Below are 5 go-to after school (or anytime) snacks that can be made for on-the-go or to be enjoyed at home:
1. Banana Muffins – these are perfect right out of the oven and freeze well for easy lunch box additions or after school snacks. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix 2C whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 C agave, 1 C mashed banana (can also cut this in half and add another fruit like pear sauce or pumpkin puree), 1/2 C apple sauce, 1/2 C coconut milk (heat to liquify), 1T vanilla. Mix wet and dry ingredients. Spray a mini muffin pan with olive oil and divide batter evenly. Place in oven for 15 minutes.
2. Green and red veggie or fruit cups – FRUIT: layer green apples, grapes or kiwi with red apples, berries or dried cranberries. VEGGIES: layer green peppers, cucumbers or snap peas with red peppers or tomatoes. Serve veggies with guacamole or hummus
3. Smoothies! My daughters love these. Blend milk, plain yogurt, 1 T ground flax seeds and spinach. Once smooth, add frozen cherries, 1/2 banana, 1 T cacao and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Blend again. Tastes like a chocolate covered cherry and is packed with fiber!
4. Trail mix – add whatever you have in your cabinets. We love pretzels, popcorn, mixed nuts and dried fruit or a few chocolate chips.
5. Yogurt parfait – layer granola, few drops of honey and plain yogurt three times in a small, clear cup. Add frozen berries for a pop of color and extra burst of flavor.
Most importantly, get the kids involved. Have fun! All of these snacks are perfect for small, helping hands. The more kids get involved in their food choices, the more they understand and are willing to try new foods.
Katie Jesionowski is Co Founder of MySuperFoods, a healthy food and lifestyle brand for kids and families. She is mom to twin daughters, Claire and Rachel and lives in NJ with her husband Mike. For more information on MySuperFoods and where you can find products near you, check out www.mysuperfoodscompany.com