The first words uttered by my children as I pick them up from school or nursery normally revolves around food or more specifically whether I have any snacks with me or not. If I don’t, I can pretty much guarantee that our 15 minute walk home will be absolute torture as they rapidly decline into mini-monsters, so I like to be prepared.
Tempting as it is to reach for the pre-packaged sugary snacks (as it tends to sweeten their mood temporarily) I like to try to offer the girls some healthy alternatives. I have pulled together my Top 10 healthy snacks to eat on the go that need little or no preparation at all:
An obvious one but a good way to tick off one of the ‘5 a day’ . . . or is it 10 now?
What: Any fruit that you have to hand works but favourites with our lot are:
- Kiwi’s (cut up with some strawberries for a colourful taste explosion)
- Blackberries (often picked on the way home from school)
- Apple (whole or if I have time I remove the skin and cut it up)
- Easy peeler (satsuma/clementine)
Verdict from kids: Not an apple again. Oh, you’ve cut it up for me . . . OK then.
Health benefits: Fruit is packed with fibre and antioxidants
2. Dried Fruit
An alternative to fresh fruit is dried fruit which has the added bonus of not needing to be refrigerated. Throw together a few pieces of mango, banana or pineapple in a cute pot.
What: Fruit that has had almost all of the water content removed through drying methods leaving a small nutrient-dense fruit.
Verdict from kids: Chewy but yummy and sweet
Health benefits: By weight, dried fruit has 3.5 times the fibre, minerals and vitamins of fresh fruit. However, as the water has been removed, this concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller package so it tends to be much sweeter so just a handful is about the right amount of dried fruit for kids.
3. Pop at home popcorn
An easy grab and go item. Try to stick to plain popcorn if you can as the flavoured ones are just full of unnecessary empty calories. If you have time, air-pop the corn yourself as it is much cheaper and healthier.
What: For fear of stating the obvious it’s a type of corn that puffs up from the kernel when heated. If you are looking for an oil free perfectly popped popcorn then see this great recipe by The Vegan Ronin
Verdict from kids: Most requested snack when I pick the kids up from school
Health benefits: Popcorn is a whole grain food that is high in vitamins, minerals, and one of the world’s best sources of fibre. It is also relatively low in calories (excluding commercially prepared flavoured popcorn that can be high in calories, sugar and salt). For example, Metcalfs and Tyrells are both popped in oil.
4. Carrot/cucumber/celery batons
There are not many vegetables that my two eat but carrots seem to be a winner. You can buy carrot and celery batons already precut if you don’t have the time to cut these up yourself.
What: Sticks of carrot, celery and cucumber
Verdict from kids: “This is my favourite healthy food Mummy” said E whilst eating a cucumber baton.
Health benefits: Carrots are a particularly good source of beta-carotene, fibre, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants. Cucumber and celery are both low calorie vegetables with high levels of Vitamin K and potassium.
5. Yoshoi baked crisps
Whilst I would struggle to win an argument with a nutritionist about whether these are deemed healthy, if the kids are demanding crisps these are a great healthier alternative.
What: A baked snack with a Japanese influence. Made from green peas and rice these light and airy crisps are higher in fibre and protein than traditional fried crisps. They are available in four flavours – Lightly salted, Sweet Chili and Lemon, Soy and Balsamic Vinegar and Smoked Salt and Szechuan Pepper. They can be bought as a six bag multipack or a 105g sharing bag.
Verdict from kids: “Can we have these every day forever”. I think that says it all.
Health benefits: Less than 99 calories per 21g serving, high in fibre, a source of protein, nut and dairy free, no artificial colours, flavours, or MSG. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians
6. Pistachio’s and cranberry mix
Peanuts and raisins never seem to get my kids excited, however, I find if I substitute the peanuts for pistachios and the raisins for cranberries the colour alone makes them very appealing. I also sometimes add a sprinkling of chocolate chips.
What: A handful of unshelled pistachios and dried cranberries
Verdict from kids: ‘Yummy Scrummy’
Health benefits: The pistachio nut is the healthiness of all nuts and has the lowest calories. Dense in nutrients, high in fibre and good fats. The nutritional benefits of dried cranberries pale in comparison to the pistachio as they can be high in sugar so if possible try to find low sugar variety.
7. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Rabbit food? Yes, I was sceptical too, however, the kids seem to love them, particularly pumpkin seeds.
What: A handful of pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Verdict from kids: Pumpkin seeds are regularly requested to be thrown in with their morning cereal
Health benefits: Whilst pumpkin seeds are high in calories (about 559 calories per 100g) they are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, and numerous health promoting antioxidants. Sunflower seeds are dense in nutrients, in particular, Vitamin E, folate and magnesium. Magnesium is great for the heart, muscles and brain but, moreover, it promotes a healthy mood which, given the tantrums I often see after school, can only be a good thing.
Olives have become a staple part of our kids’ diet. They eat them in pasta, on pizza, and even in omelettes. We (or rather my husband who has a slight obsession with supermarket bargains) normally stock up on olives whenever there is a special offer. They have also become the kids’ most popular ‘snack of choice’ along with gherkins!
What are they: Green, black, whole, sliced whatever takes your fancy but always pitted.
Verdict from kids: More please Mummy
Health benefits: Rich in powerful antioxidants and very high in vitamin E
My kids find rice cakes really bland however oatcakes are a more tasty alternative plus they are a great source of energy.
What are they: Packed in handy individual bags these On The Go Mini Cheese Oatcakes are the healthier version of Mini Cheddars.
Verdict from kids: Cheesy crisps . . . yummy!
Health benefits: Oats are high in soluble fibre which helps you fill up and release energy slowly.
Over to you
What healthy snacks do you find work for you? Any great ideas that you would like to share?