It's back-to-school time! Early mornings, hectic schedules, piles of homework and after-school munchies are all on the menu! Let's face it: Kids function better with a healthy balanced diet, so I say let's kick off the school year with a healthy resolve: super simple, delicious and truly nutritious kid-snacks!When it comes to feeding growing children, every bite counts. That means snacks are just as important as a well-balanced meal. But for many kids, the word snack conjures up images of sugary treats, candies, chips and soda - all less than optimal! Take heart, it's entirely possible to enjoy the convenience of munching foods without all the refined sugar, hydrogenated fats and artificial additives. In the same way that a good healthy meal is well-balanced with proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats, the same goes for snacks. They should be fun and easy, and not require too much time in the kitchen. Here's a list of items to keep on hand for building healthy snacks:
Favorite salad dressings for dipping
Whole grain pita pocket bread, crackers, Graham crackers and all-natural cookies
Baked chips or chips cooked in natural, expeller-pressed oils (keep to a minimum!)
Real cheese (kids love cheddar, Jack, provolone, and mozzarella)
Nuts and seeds
Nut, seed and dried fruit bars or trail mix
Goji berries and other dried fruits
Hummus and Baba Ghanouj
Organic milk, cream cheese and yogurt
Hard boiled eggs
Whole grain cereals and low sugar granola
Try these simple ideas for great snacks that will satisfy your desire for "nutritious" and the kids' desire for "delicious!"
Sprinkle toasted sunflower seeds over prepared hummus to give it additional richness and crunch. Serve with raw vegetables and whole grain pretzel dippers.
Make a batch of Oat and Date Bars.
Make nut butter and apple butter crackers or sandwiches. Choose peanut butter, almond butter or tahini. Spread it on and top with a spreading of unsweetened apple butter. Or try this Open-Faced Apple Tahini Sandwich.
Mix softened cream cheese with plenty of chopped fresh and dried fruit. Spread over whole wheat graham crackers.
Make a big bag of popcorn trail mix! It's satisfying and delicious. Popcorn adds volume to stretch roasted nuts and dried fruit for happy snacking that all ages will enjoy.
Stir a little granola into yogurt. Add some sunflower or pumpkin seeds for extra crunch.
Kids will love these Apricot Graham Snackers for an easy sweet and creamy spread for graham crackers with dried apricots, yogurt and Neufchatel cheese. Try with finely chopped fruit such as Gala apples or Bartlett pears on top.
Lay slices of cheese over apple halves.
Keep a fresh fruit salad in the refrigerator. When ready to serve for the kids, sprinkle on a few chocolate chips and some unsweetened coconut flakes.
Late August and early September is still summer, so it's hot. The kids will really appreciate these sweet, cool and creamy homemade Cherry Ice Pops. And you'll love how easy they are-just 3 ingredients!-and you're not loading up on sugar or artificial flavors and colors.
Stuff peanut butter or almond nut butter into celery sticks. Top with raisins before serving
Try some all-natural corn chips with guacamole or bean dip with prepared salsa or salsa fresco and a light sprinkling of cheese.
Keep peeled bananas in your freezer for quick smoothies or this idea for delicious Banana Nice Cream.
Kids love to dip! So keep cut up celery, carrots, bell peppers and other veggies along with melon balls, apple and pear slices, grapes, bananas and other favorite fruits on hand to cut into chunks. Put out the toothpicks and the dips - savory dips include bean dips, hummus and onion-style dips. Sweet dips for fruit can be as simple as a blending of cream cheese with a little honey or pureed fruit sweetened jam.
Remember: Snacks should be fun and easy, with minimal time invested in making them. With these strategies and a well-stocked healthy pantry, your kids will get just as much instant gratification from healthy, natural snacks as they would from a bag of greasy chips-and parents will get more peace of mind.Do you have some plans to kick off the school year with some great kid-snacks? I would love to know!