School is back in session, and with it comes a rush of new responsibilities. With long days at school, after school activities, and piles of homework, the leisurely pace of summer will soon be a distant memory. Keep your kids performing at their best and on top of their game by fueling their bodies with healthy snacks free of the Harmful 7. Follow these tricks to stay ahead of their hungry tummies.
Fresh is best
Keep fresh fruits and veggies available and visible at all times. Chances are the first thing your kids do when they come home from a long day is raid the kitchen for a snack, and many of the pre-packaged options are loaded with the Harmful 7. Keep fresh fruits like apples, bananas, and clementines in site for an easily accessible option. Keep berries, and pre-chopped produce like melons, cucumbers, and bell peppers front and center in the refrigerator. Buy produce pre-chopped or set aside time to chop the produce. Leaving a whole melon in the refrigerator may deter your kids from eating it because it’s too much work to cut it up. Keeping produce ready-to-eat and easily accessible will make eating healthy a no-brainer for your hungry kids!
Out of sight, out of mind
Typically kids may reach for junk after school like sugary cereals, frozen pizza rolls, or candy – all with some not-so-nice ingredient lists. Combat these behaviors by keeping these foods out of sight. Much like keeping fresh fruits and veggies available and in sight encourages healthy choices, keeping junk out of sight will set your kids up for success, so they can make healthy decisions on their own. Keep junk foods out of their line of site in the pantry by placing them on higher shelves, behind healthy options, or even better- out of the house entirely.
The food industry has marketing down to a science. Bright packaging with your kid’s favorite cartoon character or athlete on it draws them in and influences their snacking behaviors. If you choose to buy the unhealthy snacks for desperate times or occasional treats, try repackaging them. Store sugary cereals in boring Tupperware instead. Bright labels will attract their attention, so switch them to boring packaging to take the excitement out of eating sugar-coated cardboard and Harmful 7-filled junk. Buy freezer bags for frozen snacks.
Prep Some Protein
Filling and satisfying snacks should contain a source of protein to promote healthy muscle growth and brain development while keeping your kids satiated until dinner. Make sure your snacks contain a source of protein. Here are a few snack-friendly protein options:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Nut butter
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Nuts or seeds
- Cottage cheese
- Deli meat
Note: double check ingredient labels when selecting any packaged snacks to steer clear of the Harmful 7.
Prep and pre-portion
You may have noticed a theme in the previous suggestions. Many of them require some prep work. This step may seem like extra work, but it will help ensure that you are fully prepared for the whole week, and it will help your kids make smart, Harmful-7-free decisions. Prep your snack options in the beginning of the week or the end of the weekend. Set aside about an hour to get your after school snacks ready for the week. During this time wash, chop and portion your produce into snack-sized baggies or small containers. Measure out single servings of nut butters, hummus, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese to be enjoyed with the produce. Prep single-serving baggies of nuts and seeds. Roll cheese sticks in deli meat for a high-protein snack that’s fun and easy to eat.
In a perfect world, your kids would reach for some carrots every time they wanted a snack. Unfortunately, we live in a less than perfect world, and more often than not, our kids reach for the junk that tastes oh-so-good, but is not-so-good for our bodies because they contain the Harmful 7. Try these four easy recipes for picky eaters inspired by the choices they usually make, but made with real, whole foods that will bring us just a little bit closer to that perfect world we dream of:
Have homemade healthy pizza bites ready just as quickly as traditional pizza rolls with this recipe:
1 small zucchini
½ large tomato
2 oz fresh mozzarella
Small handful of basil
- Preheat oven to broil
- Slice zucchini, tomato, and mozzarella into thin disks
- Top zucchini with tomato, mozzarella and basil
- Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is ooey gooey and melty
Tip: use zucchini as the pizza “crust” and mix and match with different cheeses, sauces, and toppings inspired by your favorite pizzas
No-bake 6 ingredient granola bars
Skip those sugar-loaded, pre-packaged granola bars with a list of ingredients that may as well be a novel and make your own in no time!
8 medjool dates
½ cup cashews
1 ½ cup rolled oats
1 cup all natural nut butter of choice
½ cup dark chocolate chips
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup
- Blend dates in blender or food processor
- Add oats and cashews and pulse until cashews and oats are chopped
- Melt nut butter and maple syrup together in a microwave for about 30 seconds at a time, stirring until the mixture is runny
- Add date, oat, and cashew mixture to a large mixing bowl with the nut butter maple syrup mixture and stir until well-mixed
- Fold in chocolate chips
- Roll between parchment paper into ¼ inch thick bars
- Cut into 16 bars and store in airtight container
Single Ingredient Fruit Roll-ups
Here’s a homemade take on a classic after school snack that is a piece of cake to make!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Preheat oven to 175F
- Pit and puree plums in blender until smooth
- Pour mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread thin and evenly
- Allow to dehydrate in the oven for about 4-5 hours
- Remove from oven and cut into strips with the parchment paper still on
- Store in an airtight container
The fruit should be slightly sticky just like a store-bought roll-up when it is done. When you’re ready to eat, simply peel the fruit off the parchment paper and enjoy! Try this recipe with any of your favorite fruits!
This dip has gained recent popularity with the health food community. Try making your own for a healthy and affordable after school snack:
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans
½ cup fire roasted red bell peppers
1 tsp sea salt
3 cloves fresh garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
Simply combine the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Lead By Example
When prepping snacks for your kids, don’t neglect yourself in the process. Make the same healthy snack choices that you hope your kids will make for themselves. Leading by example is the most effective way you can inspire your kids to make healthy choices without causing tension within the household.
Keeping your kids properly nourished will help them thrive and perform in and out of school, and the greatest gift you can give your children is to empower them to make good choices. These suggestions and tips will set them up for success in making healthy decisions on their own without lecturing them or telling them what to do with these simple tricks.