Snack Time - 15 Healthy Options

Snack attack – keep it healthy

Snacks, the little devil hiding in the background of your child’s eating habits. We all know that snacks are part of a healthy eating routine. From weaning to big kid meals, healthy snacks keep them going when they need it most. It is important to keep an eye on snacks, ensuring that they are small, healthy and given at the appropriate times. So, how do you ensure that they’re happy eating what you give them, ensuring that the options are tasty and healthy without ruining their appetite for the next meal?

As your children grow, they will need less snacks although it seems to be quite the opposite. A hungry teenager will soon eat you out of house and home so setting good eating habits early, including boundaries on what is and what is not allowed at snack time, can mean the difference between healthy and unhealthy eating habits which ultimately lead to an active or more sedentary lifestyle. This guide aims to provide some fun, healthy and tasty snack options to keep them interested and healthy at the same time.

It is far easier to have a say in what your toddler or pre-schooler eats as you are quite often the one preparing all of their meals, or they’re prepared and served by childcare staff who are delivering healthy eating programmes through nursery, at childminders settings and later at school through the hot meals offered each day. As your children get older, they start to demand more choice and they want to be in control of what they eat, how much and when. This is fine as long as they have a clear understanding of the options available, what is good for their health and what should be avoided.

It is important that school age children have appropriate meals and snacks to ensure that they are able to concentrate throughout the day. Foods high in sugars and refined carbohydrates are a ticking time bomb in terms of energy levels and the ability to concentrate. Talk to your children, discuss the importance of eating healthy, energy sustaining meals throughout the day, treats are fine as long as they are limited to a few a week rather than a staple part of the days intake.

Depending on your child's age and after-school schedule, you may not always be able to have a say in what your child eats, particularly in the late afternoon when they’re tired and more likely to opt for sugary, carb dense treats that will give them a quick energy boost but leave them feeling tired and not hungry shortly afterwards meaning dinner time can be a challenge.

Time to eat

Timing is everything, particularly when it comes to planning snacks and meal times for your child. Consider things from their point of view as often, our adult habits are not always what is best for the needs of your child. Plan a weekly eating routine, consider breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a snack in-between each depending on age. Younger children may need the mid-morning snack, but older school aged children may not.

Consider what to give your child if they have an early start in the morning and the school lunch time is still a way off. It may be worth packing a healthy snack bar into their bag or a piece of fruit that can be eaten quickly between classes, ensuring that they have the nutrition they need to keep going. After school, most children are ravenous so it can be worth carefully planning out some satisfying snack options that won’t wreck their dinner appetites.

You may want to consider timings when looking at lunch and dinner. What time did your child have lunch, did they have a snack after school and will they be hungry early or happy to wait until a later time. This will vary from one family to the next but try to find a happy medium, something that works for everyone.

Get creative

Talk to your children about the types of snacks they like. Discuss the healthy options they enjoy, making a list so that you have something to work with and to add to over time. You can discuss treats and how or when it will be appropriate to have those. This may be done on a rewards system or as a standard treat on the weekend or after dinner. Snacks should include, where possible, fruit and vegetable options, nuts are a great alternative too.

If your children are old enough and you’re happy taking them along to do the grocery shopping, consider giving them a ‘task’ before you go. They could make a list of all of the healthy snacks that they would like to eat and together, you can go around the shop and decide whether or not those options are suitable, if not, why not and what alternatives could you replace them with? Children will enjoy this type of interactive experience and they won’t even realise that they’re learning and building good food habits early on. Explain the value of calories, the salt and sugar or carbohydrates contained in each product. Learning to read food labels early on will help to create lifelong habits. Set limits and if your child sees that their chosen snack is too high in calories, fat or sugar for example, they will learn that it is not a good snack and will look for an alternative.

15 snacks to inspire and satisfy

1. Frozen yogurt buttons – these are a big hit with kids of all ages. Cheap and easy to make. You can use plain, own brand yogurt or yogurt with fruit bits, you decide what your children would prefer. You can also add your own bits of small chopped fruit as a topper once you’ve portioned out the buttons. You will need a teaspoon and a pot of yogurt. Place small to medium size drops of yogurt onto a tray lined with wax paper. Top with fruit or leave plain. Pop into the freezer until frozen and then decant into portion pots or little bags, place back into the freezer, then grab and eat as required.

2. Courgette pizza bites – Super easy and a great little healthy snack. Cut your courgette into ¼ inch thick slices. Toss in a light drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Pop onto a foil lined tray, under the grill for one to two minutes, flip and do the other side for one to two minutes. Add a light sprinkling of cheese and a small drop of Bolognese or tomato based sauce, a slice of salami or leave plain and pop back under the grill until the cheese has melted. Serve hot

3. Banana nut bites – Cut rings of banana, about ¼ inch thick. Spread peanut butter on one, top with another ring and serve. These are so simple and the kids love the idea of peanut butter and banana sandwich bites!

4. Courgette and parmesan crisps – Cut wafer thin slices of courgette, in a bowl toss them in a splash of vinegar, a dusting of garlic powder, salt and a hand full of grated parmesan, just enough to coat the quantity you’ve sliced. Place on dehydration racks in the oven and put on a very low heat and cook until lightly brown and crispy. This may take a couple of hours but can be stored in an air tight container and given out in portion controlled servings.

5. Jelly shots – Make up a batch of jelly as directed on the pack. Get a collection of ice cube trays or plastic shot glasses (these can be picked up for next to nothing online) and make bite size jelly shots. These can also be made into a variety of different treats by adding pieces of fruit before freezing.

6. Popcorn sweet and salty – no trickery here. Good old homemade popcorn can be made and stored in air tight containers for days ahead. Make a variety of flavours by experimenting with salts, herbs, spices and sugar. Remember to keep salt and sugar to a minimum but overall, popcorn is a low calorie snack that the kids will enjoy.

7. Fruit kebabs – these are great fun for the kids to make and eat! Pepare a few bowls of sliced fruit such as strawberries, kiwi, banana, grapes and so on, give each child a skewer stick (supervision required if young) and let them build their own fruit kebabs.

8. Coconut fruit pops – these are delicious particularly in the warmer months. Add small diced pieces of fruit to a popsicle mould, pour coconut water over to fill the shape and freeze as you would normally to make popsicles. Tropical treat that’s packed with colour and flavour.

9. Root vegetable crisps – use a peeler to remove the skin from carrots, parsnips and other root type vegetables. Once you have your batch of wafer thin slices, toss in a bowl with a few sprays of fry light cooking spray, season with salt and pepper and bake at a very low heat until crispy and golden. Keep in an air tight container and serve alone or with reduced fat houmous.

10. Apple jacks – create your own flapjack style apple treats. Slice an apple into ½ inch thick slices, remove the core. Sprinkle with toasted oats, raisins and desiccated coconut. Light dusting of cinnamon and pop under the grill for two minutes or until the coconut starts to turn a light golden brown. Eat right away. This is ideal for a snack or a breakfast on the go.

11. Chicken salad stuffed peppers – slice a yellow pepper in half, removing the seed pod completely. Make a low fat chicken salad by combining cubed lean chicken breast, two tablespoons of half fat crème fraiche, salt, pepper, chopped chives and celery (optional) and serve cold. This is a great filler between meals if there is a long wait between main meals. Low in carbs and fat, its protein rich and not too rich.

12. Smoothie time – take some time to pre-portion some fruit that freezes well such as a selection of berries. Keep a couple of bananas to hand and blitz these with a small tub of yogurt. Serve immediately. Great source of fibre, dairy and potassium. Will take the edge off hunger without leaving them too full for their next main meal. Great for taking on the go if you’re making a pit stop at home before going off to after school sports or activities.

13. Egg-xactly – hard boiled eggs are quick and easy to make, they keep for a few days and are a great little filler, high in protein and low in fat. Make up a few hard boiled eggs, once cooled, slice in half to create two individual snacks. Scoop the hard yolk out of the centre, mix with some light mayonnaise or half fat crème fraiche, season and scoop back into the hollow whites. Seal in an air tight container and refrigerate for a couple of days, allowing your children to have one or two halves as a snack between meals.

14. Sugar cone salad – a fab alternative to a plain fruit salad with the added advantage of an ice-cream style appeal. You are winning on both fronts here, as the waffle cone provides the children with the treat side of the snack, while the delicious chopped fruit pieces that you’ll fill it up with provide them with the healthy fibres and energy they need to make it through the rest of the day.

15. BLT bites – these are just as suitable for kid snacks as they are for adult nibbles. Slice the top off a few cherry tomatoes, insert a sprig (stem section) of lettuce and a thin slice of bacon. These look fab, taste amazing and are full of all the goodness that tomatoes provide, in one healthy bite sized snack.

The suggestions above provide just a small range of ideas. The more you experiment, the wider the range of foods your children will start to enjoy and they will soon see that healthy does not mean boring!

If your child goes to an after-school club or is cared for by someone else, find out what snacks are served and if they are not healthy, discuss this with the provider and ask for change where necessary. Talk to your child about making health choices and why it is important to do that job for you when you’re not around.

It can be a good idea to set aside some time each week to plan snacks, even prepare some snack packs that are portioned out into little tubs or sandwich bags so that you have some healthy options to grab on the go. Make your own trail mix, cracker packs with ham and cheese in sealed containers, fruit salads and little vegie sticks with low fat dips that are ready-made and easy to access. A little planning can go a long way to ensuring your children are nourished, happy and enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

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