When you’re a parent on the go, opportunities to provide your kids healthy snacks can seem limited. Too often in the hustle and bustle of playing chauffeur we find ourselves at another fast food drive-thru to feed the busy mouths chattering in the backseat. And to add insult to injury there are so many other “to-do’s” that take precedence over making nutritious snacks. Let’s just grab a bag of chips and get on with our day, right?
It’s time to get out of the snack food slump and fill those active, little mouths with something nutritious and tasty. And this time around you won’t be putting in long hours in the kitchen.
Purge yourself of all former snacking habits. You have to make room for change and sugar is the place to start. The amount of sugary snacks given to kids needs to end.
Studies from Concordia University are clear that too much sugar, and of the wrong kind, doesn’t sustain energy levels and reduces performance of the brain. So when the kids get home from school and have to head off to soccer practice or have to start their homework, provide protein packed treats to satisfy their body’s need for fuel.
Customize the trail mix. Take nuts, seeds, crackers and even a small amount of candy to cater to what your child loves. A favorite from The Food Network blog is popcorn, banana chips, or other dried fruit, a couple Hershey kisses and a favorite low-sugar cereal. You can “Trail Mix-n-Match” frequently so it’s always a surprise for them.
Learn to love replacing junk food with choices that are just as enjoyable to your taste buds. You don’t have to become a snack food extremist to boost your health. Take what your child already loves and if it’s unhealthy, find the healthier alternative. One of America’s most beloved desserts is often being eaten as an after school snack in addition to an after dinner treat. Fortune magazine says, “In any given two-week period, according to research by NPD Group, 40% of Americans will eat ice cream.” If your kids are ice cream lovers, replace it with its sister treat, yogurt.
While yogurt still tends to be high in sugar, it also contains fiber and other vitamins that make this snack a win-win for both kids and parents. Drop dime size amounts of yogurt on a baking sheet and freeze them for a yummy frozen treat. Taking it up a notch, pour your favorite yogurt in mini muffin tins, add some fresh fruit, freeze for a couple hours and you have a very healthy version of ice cream cups.
For all the picky eaters in the house, especially the veggie haters, a great way to sneak in some nutrition before dinner is with vegetable muffins. Spinach is a rich source of several dietary fibers, iron and is chalk full of vitamins. And, the best part for kids? They can’t taste it. Other popular vegetable muffin recipes you can find include zucchini and carrots. Double chocolate chip zucchini muffins and carrot cake pops are just a couple of the recipes you can find on many popular food websites. Add a scoop or two of vanilla or chocolate protein powder into the batter and you’ve got a monstrosity of super foods in one small pastry.
Finally, with all the lingering time on your hands from these quick snack solutions, you can store your snacks in new ways; just don’t forget to grab them on your way out the door! Presentation is everything. It’s always more fun eating pancakes with a smiley face on it made out of strawberries than the usual plain pancake with fruit on the side. Reinventing the oldies puts a fun twist on the once boring snack time. Instead of Ziploc bags, take a tackle box and fill each compartment with a different item. It’s a great storage container for all the little odds and ends of nutritious snacks. If you have any mason jars lying around, put a layer of hummus in the bottom and stick celery, carrots and peppers inside. They also make great fruit parfait cups. Grab one from the fridge before you run out the door.
It’s easy to become a drive-thru junky; but it can be even easier to have your own healthy snacks to pack in lunches, bags, or in the car. Helping your kids snack smarter will enhance their mental vibrancy and be the better stimulant you want for their active lives. And since parents tend to eat what their kids do, everyone is taken care of.
Adria Andresen is a piano teacher native to San Antonio. Her and her husband are parents to a 6 month old girl and live in Converse.
- Friedman, Lauren. 15 Terrible Things That Happen When You Eat Too Much Sugar. Concordia University. 2014. Accessed on businessinsider.com
- Russo, Maria. Trail Mix-n-match. foodnetworkblog.com, 2015.
- VanderMey, Anne. Do we still scream for ice cream? Fortune magazine. July 2014.