A very common questions from parents includes “What are healthy snack choices for children?” If you walk down the aisle of your local supermarket, I am sure you will feel overwhelmed by the wide selection of choices on offer, from cereal and energy bars to crackers and fruit sticks, the list is endless. Advertising and marketing has evolved quite significantly and products are very cleverly marketed nowadays with their wonder ingredients or fantastic health benefits. Determining which options are genuinely a healthy choice for your child can be confusing.
Looking back at history, and if you go back to the times of our grandparents and our great-grandparents, food choices were limited to simple and natural foods. Foods were home grown in the garden, eggs were taken from the chicken hen and so forth. Home cooked meals were always on the menu. Over the decades however and with advances in food technology, we are spoilt with a much wider range of ready-to-eat and processed foods available, sadly much to the detriment of our health. Our aim is to always try revert back to eating natural foods and avoiding highly processed foods which often offer little nutritional value. Nowadays however lifestyles are busier, lives are stressful and space is more limited. It may be unrealistic for families to be expected to always grow their own vegetables, pluck your own chickens, bake your own bread etc. Choosing natural foods is however still advocated. The moral of the story is to find a happy balance between the two and to choose natural foods as much as possible. This recommendation applies to snacks as well. As children have small tummies but high energy requirements, they require nutrient and energy dense snacks. Snacks should always be easy to eat, especially while at school, and always a small portion, as to not fill your child up for their main meals. Let’s go through some healthy, natural snack ideas for children.
Fruit – Fruit is a great source of vitamins and antioxidants, as well as fibre to help keep your kiddies tummies regular. Focus on seasonal fruits which will be more cost effective and also support local produce. Don’t be afraid to combine fruits to make it more colourful and enticing. For example, combine some strawberries and blueberries, or some segments of oranges with apple slices. Remember to try include fruits with the skins on as well to promote the fibre intake. Make your own fruit yoghurt as opposed to buying store bought varieties which are often flavoured with sugar. Chop some fresh fruit and add it to a full fat plain yoghurt and voila – you have a fresh fruity yoghurt which combines the nutrients in fruit and the protein and calcium in the yoghurt.
Nuts – Nuts are a great source of healthy fats, an important component of any child’s diet. Nuts are a great on-the-go snack, and always remember to include a variety. It is recommend to provide your child with raw nuts, and avoid those with added salt. Combining some nuts with a piece of a fruit is a perfect snack. How about some banana with nut butter which combines the nutrients in fruit and the healthy fats in the nut butter? Make your own trail mix by combining a range of nuts, raisins and don’t forget about seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds. This can be made in bulk and kept in an airtight container for the week ahead.
Chickpeas – Whether you call it a chickpea or a garbanzo bean, there’s no question that chickpeas are a healthy addition to any diet. Chickpeas are naturally high in protein, low in fat and high in dietary fibre. What happens if you blend chickpeas together – you get hummus! It’s quick and easy to make and definitely takes preference over store bought varieties.
Veggies – Vegetables are often forgotten about to serve as a snack, and are often left for main meals. A perfect snack choice is however some raw carrots, peppers, cucumber, cherry tomatoes or celery. Veggies are full of nutrients in the natural form, and combining colours make it an exciting snack option for kiddies. Pair up some veggie sticks with a home-made hummus as a dip. Or fill a celery stick with some nut butter, and top with some raisins.
Avocado – Avocado is a firm favourite as it is an excellent source of healthy fats for you child. Whether you serve it as avocado slices or mashed together as guacamole – this power food is always recommended. Serve on a provita or two, together with some grilled chicken slices – an all-round snack combining healthy fats, carbohydrate and protein.
Eggs – The infamous question is whether the chicken became before the egg or the egg before the chicken? Regardless of the answer, eggs are an excellent protein source, making it a healthy snack choice. The only downside of eggs is that they may smell, so reserve these snacks for the afternoon when kiddies are home, verse packing them for school snack time.
Remember the key for any meal, whether it is a main meal or snack, is to always offer variety and to provide foods which are bright, colourful and enticing. Be creative and don’t be afraid to use food cutters to make shapes, and use foods to make smiley faces. This will require commitment and some additional time from mom or dad, but it is very important to promote a positive food experience and will assist in broadening the range of foods your child eats.
Salt to flavour – optional
Drain the chickpeas and rinse. Reserve a few whole chick peas for serving.
Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, tahini, and water in a food processor, and blend to a creamy purée.
Serve with sliced vegetables such as carrots, peppers or cucumbers.