The other day my kids were rifling through the cupboard looking for a snack and grumbling, “All we ever have is nuts and dried fruit.” Followed by, “Why can’t we be like other kids who get good snacks?”
Rather than go on a dietitian diatribe about our food selection, I decided to give it a rest. Instead, I gave our snacking habits an overhaul. We were in a between-meal rut.
The first thing to do was reorganize the pantry, both in the interest of fostering my kids’ independence in the kitchen, and so I could keep tabs on what is actually in there. The far corners of our cupboard can be a scary place. I couldn’t put my hands on our label-maker, which is neck-in-neck with the hot glue gun as my favorite household hardware. So I enlisted an even better resource: my seven-year old, Virginia, who clearly acquired her gift for spelling from her father. She made the labels for me:
After that, I spent a little time considering what were acceptable snacks to me from a nutrition standpoint, and pleasing to my kids. After perusing the options at all of my grocery hot spots: the farmers’ market, Trader Joe’s, and my local organic market, I’ve added a few things to our snacking repertoire:
:: SUN-DRIED TANGERINES ::
Yes, another dried fruit, but new to us. My husband brought them home from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market and they are a hit. Made by “Under the Sun Foods,” they are sweet, crunchy and don’t stick in your teeth like many on the dried-fruit front.
:: HONEY STICKS ::
These are teeny tubes of local honey sold at farmers’ markets. There can’t be any more than a teaspoon of honey in there, so, no, they are not going to fill up anyone’s belly. But my kids consider it a real treat when one shows up in their lunchbox.
:: HOMEMADE YOGURT POPS ::
We’ve been filling popsicle molds with our favorite homemade smoothies. Freeze, and voilà, pops with a dose of calcium and protein.
:: JICAMA WITH LIME JUICE AND CHILI ::
A popular snack in Mexico and other south-of-the-border locales, it’s a refreshing departure from those darn “baby carrots.” The chili/lime combo is also tasty on cucumbers, mango, melon and pineapple.
:: CRISPY DRIED SEAWEED ::
Toasted, salted seaweed is all the rage, but relatively new in our household. It hits all the right notes with the kids on the salty, crunchy front, and seaweed is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Read the label be sure there is no MSG or other unseemly ingredients.
:: GRAHAM CRACKER GOODIES ::
Melt a few chocolate chips onto a whole wheat graham cracker in the toaster oven, smear it with all-natural peanut butter and snap in half to make a sandwich. It’s perfect accompanied by a little glass of milk.
:: HOME-SPUN TRAIL MIX ::
Mix whole grain pretzels with crunchy cereal, dried cherries, peanuts or other favorite nuts, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate chips.
:: YOGURT PARFAITS-TO-GO ::
My favorite are these beauties. I pulled them together when we were off to a sports practice after school one day. The pantry was pretty bare, but we never run out of fruit and yogurt. I layered pears and tangerines with plain yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of nuts and crunchy cereal. If I’d had granola on hand, that would have been my “crunch” of choice. It covers all your bases: protein and a little fat(which means the calories will stick with your kids longer carbs alone), along with fiber, vitamin C, and calcium. My kids gobbled them down without a grumble, and weren’t hungry until dinnertime.