Healthy Snacking for Kids

Last time I told you about how we made a conscious decision to try and eat whole foods and how we prep our entire week’s meals over the weekend.  So how exactly does that look?

Let’s start with a tale of two babies.  When Wiggles turned six months old, I steamed and pureed some organic sweet potatoes and we spoonfed him at dinnertime, documenting the whole thing with pictures.  We went on to introduce a new fruit or vegetable every 2.5 days, carefully watching him for any signs of allergies.

When The Baby turned six months old she nursed like normal and went to bed happy.  Occasionally we’d give her a chunk of banana or some Cheerios, but it wasn’t until our sweet daycare lady said The Baby was crying while the other kids were eating that we really started feeding her.  She was 7.5 months old at the time.  We didn’t have time to spoon feed her so we cut our dinner into very small chunks, plopped it on her high chair tray, and then went back to reminding Wiggles that he can’t stand on his chair/Diva that she has to let other people have turns talking/Smiles that it’s inappropriate to talk about farts at dinner.  So The Baby’s first foods were pretty uneventful, but by now she’s had lots of different things from hamburgers to tuna casserole to lentil tacos and hasn’t turned any of them down (although there’s usually an impressive amount in her bib pocket so maybe she is just really good at pretending to eat).

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Wiggles and The Baby had very different first-foods experience, but one thing I plan to keep the same is exposure.

With Wiggles people gave me a hard time because I was super strict with what he ate.  Like, one time I asked the daycare lady not to feed him animal crackers again.  I’m pretty laid back in nearly all areas of parenting but this is one area where I have really strong convictions. The way I see it is that by growing up in America, one will be exposed to processed junky foods their entire lives.  Every single time they go to a grocery store, eat lunch in a cafeteria, drive down the street, watch commercials, flip through a magazine- it’s unavoidable.  Why expose them to it before necessary?  I didn’t plan to be strict with Wiggle’s diet forever, and I haven’t been.  By the time he got old enough to realize what he was missing out on, by the time he was asking to eat things he saw others enjoy, I let him have some tastes.  For Wiggles this happened a little before his second birthday.  My goal is not to deprive my children of yummies forever.  But until they start asking for it, I’m only feeding them things that fill their little growing bodies with goodness.

Wiggles will be 3 in April (!) and he is a great eater.  He for sure enjoys the occasional ice cream/brownie/cake, but he does a great job eating his healthy food most of the time.  Except on random days that he must make a starvation pact in the morning.  Toddlers.

So when the big kids came home, this was the environment I was operating in.  For 2 years, I had controlled nearly everything that went into my kid’s mouth (we used a home daycare at the time and he was one of the only kids.  So even at daycare I had a lot of say in what he ate). It was working wonderfully.  Then these big kids got here and they got suckers at church and they got cupcakes and Capri Suns at school parties and they had sports team parties with nearly unlimited junk food and they used their school lunch account to buy Cheez Its and the blessed ice cream truck drove through our neighborhood 96 times a day and we went Trick or Treating and came home with 3 giant bags of candy.  I was suddenly experiencing the grip the processed food industry has on America’s children and I was so very out of control. Recently I asked Marig what his favorite thing about America was and his answer was “Cheez Its!”

I fought it. I had zero junk food, or anything that even resembled junk food, in the house. We never got snacks when we went places and basically they were just, by their own accounts, poor deprived kids. After a few months of this I realized that if I didn’t let them eat reasonable amounts of less-than-healthy foods now, they may binge on it whenever they get the chance later. We were providing them healthy foods, but we weren’t setting the stage for long-term healthy eating habits. So I changed my attitude. I bought some snacks I normally would not allow and set some limits around them.  Now, they get a healthy snack after school/nap. If they eat lunch or dinner, they get a treat.

Healthy Snacks

  • Fruits- Favorites include bananas, oranges, and apples. Sometimes we even do canned fruits.
  • Oatmeal with cinnamon and honey, Wiggles also likes raisins or dried blueberries in his
  • Raisins
  • Hummus and pretzels
  • Guacamole and pretzels (I buy the Holy Guacamole single packs from Costco)
  • Almonds/Nuts
  • Hard boiled eggs (I make several of these each week but don’t peel them until they’re ready to eat)
  • Wheaties
  • String cheese
  • Banana chips or veggie chips
  • 100% Whole wheat toast or bread (Check the label- bread packaging is especially deceptive.  Know what it takes to make bread?  Flour. Salt. Yeast. Don’t get bread with 96,000 ingredients). (All my kids love plain bread. My biggest kids love to put hot sauce on it)
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Veggies and dip
  • Smoothies (Fruit or PB/Banana/Cocoa are favorites)

Treats

  • Lemonade
  • Hot Chocolate (otherwise, our house is a totally boring drink house- milk and water only.  I have mixed thoughts on juice, but they’re irrelevant because none of my kids like juice)
  • Cheez Its
  • Yogurt covered pretzels (These are a favorite and disappear quickly)
  • Goldfish
  • Frozen fruit or Greek yogurt bars
  • Random candy from holidays or events
  • Baked goodies we may have on hand
  • Granola bars (yes, my kids think these are a treat…and they pretty much are)
  • Animal crackers
  • Graham crackers
  • Peanut butter filled pretzels
  • Fruit snacks

Our goal is to eat mostly healthy, most of the time and this allows us to do it.  I take comfort in the fact that even when they’re eating treats, they’re not THAT bad.  And because of that, I don’t stress (much) when they eat food that is THAT bad when they’re out of the house.

Speaking of being out of the house, this is a huge area for possible issues where preparation pays off.  For example, Smiles has basketball games every week.  There is a concession stand that sells typical things like nachos, candy bars, and pop at 10 a.m. After listening to them whine a couple times I got smart and started having them pick a snack or a treat to bring.  They get excited because they get to eat at a time they don’t usually get to and I get excited because (a) They’re no longer whining, (b) They’re eating like civilized people instead of crawling under the bleachers and getting kicked in the head, and (c) They’re not eating candy bars at 10 a.m.  If they DO want something from the concession stand or a vending machine, they can have it- if they use their own money.  I tell them that I’m not going to use my money to buy junk.  Usually this works, but Smiles has been known to spend 1/4 of his piggy bank balance on a single bag of Cheez Its.

They are, after all, his favorite thing about being in America.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite snacks?

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