Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ask the Internet: Healthy Snacks for Little Kids?

Holy cow! Did you guys know that the Ice Cream Man/Woman makes between $400 and $900 a day in the summer, depending on the weather? Wow. Time for a career shift.

Speaking about fun foods, reader Rachael wrote in with a question pertaining to last week’s Cooking for Small Children post:

Q: I have 3 children 3 and under. My two oldest love to snack! I have plenty of fruits and veggies for them, but sometimes they aren't the easiest on the go. I'd like to steer clear of snacks like cheddar fish or crackers, even. What are some delicious whole, nutritious, on the go snacks?!

A: Thanks for writing, Rachael! While I don’t have kids of my own, my cousins/friends/guy on the corner really seem to like Sabra’s single-serving hummus tubs. They’re portable, cute, and ain’t nothing wrong with a little chickpea dip. If you’re concerned about environmental factors, you can buy a larger tub and scoop little portions into a smaller piece of Tupperware.

But sweet readers, I know you have more on this. What are your little ones’ favorite healthy snacks?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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Anonymous said...

String Cheese is great and comes prewrapped. My kids are older, but they like jerky or nuts which store great in my purse.

For when my kids were younger I kept a tupperware container of cheerios in my purse which usually helped with the "I'm hungry" complaints and they aren't messy.

Georgie said...

Home-made popcorn is cheap, nutritious, and delicious.

Sultanas/raisins, I look for organic/natural ones with no sulphites/preservatives.

I buy wholegrain rice crackers that I'm happy with, and organic rice cakes.

Hillary said...

Cheese and raisins are a big hit with my boys. Dried fruits in general are good for traveling. We make my toddler snack bags with Cheerios, raisins and whatever other dry, crunchy things we have laying around. He loves them.

christiems said...

I get a bag of veggie chips from Costco, and my son loves them. It has sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. Come to think of it, Costco has a lot of healthy snacks. They have chips made mostly from brown rice, Lara bars (which are made from fruits and nuts, and nothing else, and are SO good!) all-natural fruit snacks, etc. If you're not completely opposed to processed foods, you can get healthier versions of Goldfish/cracker-type things at your local health food store.

Anonymous said...

whole wheat or sprouted grain tortilla roll ups! For fillings my kids love cream cheese and avocado, white bean spread & cucumbers, or tomato sauce & cheese rolled up then pop in oven- ooey gooey & crisp. These are great portable no mess snacks. Even my 11 month old can chew on them.

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding! Chickpea dip!! Yuk! And this is healthy because... Lets be honest. Chickpea is the latest fad, the "in" thing. All we need now is chickpea yogurt to make it the perfect yuppie food to impress your friends how "health concious" you are. No one would eat chickpea dip because it tastes good. Your kids will not eat it either.

Kris said...

Dad, is that you?

Sara said...

Actually, that Sabra hummus is AMAZING. I think any kid would like it - however, it is so yummy that I sort of doubt that it is very healthy. ;)

AJP said...

Before you give children under age 5 popcorn, read this article in the NY Times about the top choking hazards for small kids. It's quite an eye opener! http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/health/25choke.html?scp=1&sq=labels%20urged&st=cse

PS--I love hummus/chick pea dip. I've eaten it for years, before it was "trendy".

shris said...


Getting back to the vegetables for just a second...how about a some-assembly-required item?

Take your celery pieces along with a zip top bag of peanut butter (assuming no allergies, mind you), and a box of raisins.

When you get to snack space and time, cut a small hole in the corner of the bag of PB and use it as a pastry bag to fill the celery sticks with a line of PB. Then plop a few raisins atop the PB and voila, "Ants on a Log". You can also use cranberries or dry cherries for 'red ants on a log'.

I rather like hummus as a dip for veggies, and my kids will eat some, but they like dressing better.

Another idea for a vegetable based snack is kohlrabi. It looks weird, but it's an awesome potato-chip-substitute if you peel it and slice it thinly with a mandolin. Depending on the thinness, you can use it with dips and salsas as well. My five year olds love it (my son likes it plain and my daughter wants dressing). It has the perfect crispy texture when thin, or a nice hearty crunch (like an apple) when thicker. The three of us can gobble a whole bulb before dinner without any trouble at all. Warning: Kohlrabi tastes like the *stem* of a broccoli. Not a bad thing in my book, but some folks don't like broccoli much.

My kids like dried fruits and nuts on the road, as well as granola bars, cheese sticks, cherry or grape tomatoes and any salty-crunchy snacks we come up with.

DRosa said...

My kids liked cheese curds, a friend gave hers firm tofu bits, cheerios are always popular (as are rice chex), dried fruit (and you can expand beyond raisins) but I have completely different advice.

Treat snacks like a scheduled meal. Little kids need to eat often, but even if you feed them healthy snacks, letting them eat on demand or graze through the day sets them up for bad lifetime habits. It lets them skip meals cause they know "I'm hungry" will get them cheese cubes or grapes or raisins later. Eating on the go is one of the biggest contributors to our weight habit.

Schedule your snacks, make your kids sit down - no TV, and have it as a mini meal.

Jen said...

We mostly have fruit for snacks...any type of berry, grapes, or bananas. String cheese, cereal, and tortillas are also favorites. Peanut butter is good if you aren't looking for something portable. Hummus is a great idea...and really easy to make at home.

MamaEscandon said...

I mean on the go as in on the road etc. If we have a park day or an outing I can't make them sit at the table.

Ashley said...

Fun question! I commented on last week's "Ask the Internet" post about cooking with kids, and I'd like to chime in on the conversation again here.

As a registered dietitian who works with families every day, I’d like to echo a portion of DRosa’s comment about treating snack time as a scheduled “mini-meal.” Snacks are important for kids of all ages, but constant “grazing” is a serious deterrent for healthy habits like sitting down to eat together, learning to recognize the difference between appetite and true hunger, and trying and liking new foods. That said, my one contradictory note is that it’s also important to think ahead and plan for on-the-go snacks. Eating on-the-go isn’t necessarily a singular contributor to weight gain, but not planning ahead and relying on the types of foods available at convenience stores and fast food joints for snacks can be a dangerous habit.

For home, snacks that require assembly are always fun- “ants on a log,” mini fruit pizzas (half a whole grain mini-bagel topped with low-fat cream cheese and fruit pieces,) fruit with yogurt dip (vanilla yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon- trust me, tastes like a fruit pie,) make-your-own salsa from assorted chopped veggies. Be wary of prepackaged foods that claim to be “all natural” or “healthy” because those terms aren’t regulated, and sometimes those foods aren’t that different from regular snack foods. Veggie chips might still be fried and high in sodium or calories, and “all natural” juices or fruit snacks might still have just as much added sugar as a national brand.

For on-the-go snacks or even a last-minute breakfast, let kids make a trail mix from a combination of whole grain cereal, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Or make a “happy snack pack”- give kids a plastic baggie to decorate with stickers, then fill it with cut-up fruits and veggies to serve later with dip.

The best advice I can give is to treat snack time as another opportunity to eat foods from the food groups. If you can’t figure out what food group it belongs to, then it probably doesn’t belong to one (I’m looking at you, Hot Cheetos.) Aim for giving kids “real” foods at snack time.

Oh yeah, and in my experience, kids love hummus.

Myrnie said...

tortilla chips with bean dip (a can of black beans drained and rinsed, and blended with half a can of salsa)
tortilla chips with hummus
carrots with hummus
carrots with ketchup
dried fruits
berries and fruit
apple slices with cheese

(and..."anonymous"....my kids ADORE hummus. I make it in the blender, and they'll eat it with anything they can get their hands on. And yes, my kids are quite picky about what they eat.)

Catherine said...

Well, apparently my kids ages 3.5 & 1.5) are crazy (according to "anonymous") because they love hummus, with whole grain (i.e. Kashi TLC) crackers or vegetables. I'm not crazy about the Sabra hummus, though. Trader Joe's Mediterranean-style is our family favorite. I've tried making it from scratch, but can't figure out how to replicate the creamy texture.

They also like cheese (cheddar & mozzerella are favs), popcorn, dried or fresh fruit, homemade granola, homemade graham crackers, etc.

Jennifer said...

Raisins are our #1 on the go snack. We're not big snackers but if I'm running late and it's lunch time, it's not fair to a 2 year old to make her wait to eat. I also like apple sauce cups (but those are messier). I like things that I can keep in my bag at all times for emergencies and don't need refrigeration or go bad. I usually keep a juice box in my bag for these situations too or a rare treat.

Anonymous said...

I was Anonymous #1 (not the hummus hater) but when I talked about my kids saying "I'm hungry" I meant more in terms of something that was supposed to be a quick trip ends up lasting FOR-EV-ER (traffic, DMV, etc). Giving them a snack to tide them over until we can eat a real meal is a lifesaver sometimes. So something stashed in my purse like jerky or nuts works great, and isn't messy, because the last thing you want is to be in traffic and now have a messy kid.

MaryKate said...

My son is a very picky eater and most of the suggestions so far seem geared for an adventurous child. If you have a stubborn kid who insists that anything with green on it must be inedible, I'd suggest creating your own home-made lunchable. Cut up cheese and meat (or "nonmeat"), or just use peanut butter and/or fruit preserves in a small container and put it all in a tupperware container with crackers (store-bought or homemade) or even use cut up squares of bread instead. Another idea: cold bagel or pita pizza versions of this same concept.
My hats off to those of you who have kids who will eat hummus. I'm envious.

Kitter said...

Great ideas here! Here's how it looks at our house...
Fruit, fruit & more fruit.
Costco carries a tub of "Energy Bars", which are granola bar-ish, and yummy. The ingredients aren't bad - grains, nuts, dried fruit, the sweetener's way down on the list.
And definitely veggies/crackers & hummus. Along with anything else that can be dipped.
Quesadillas work well - cheese only, cheese & meat, etc. I cut them in wedges and keep them in the freezer for grab n' go moments.
Sandwiches! We'd be lost without pb&j!
Yogurt - not so much when we're out of the house though. I buy plain only (the flavored stuff = sooo much sugar), and doll it up with fruit, applesauce, jam, nuts, granola, etc. Plain yogurt is really good once you get used to it (I weaned off the flavored stuff myself, years ago).
Popsicles - blend up over-ripe fruit, yogurt, etc. Sweeten with jam or honey if needed. Freeze in popsicle molds, and drink the leftover as a smoothie.
Cheerios, puffins, crackers, etc. - are grab n' go staples.

Anonymous said...

My "kid" is my 31 year old husband, and I know they are premade and all the stuff we try to avoid here on CHG, but I have a box of sunbelt granola bars hidden in the house and I always keep a few tucked in the cars glove boxes for just in case. He requires regular feeding to avoid grumpiness. Probably not good for us since they taste just the same after 2 years in the car when needed, but sure helps in traffic jams.

On to the "real" kids snacking, when we were little my mom always kept out a bowl of grapes, carrots, or cuke slices, etc, and that was the snack (we were 6 and 3) and if we didn't like her snack then we could wait for dinner. She was also pretty darn careful to make sure we were home for meal times. I really don't remember snacks on the go for me or my little brother. Probably easier said than done now. And if we didn't like what was for dinner then we knew where the cereal cabinet was.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm Anonymous #5.

Yea, hummus is a fad that's been around for at least several centuries.

I make hummus from a recipe I found in Saveur magazine about 4 years ago.

Catherine -- the secret to creamy hummus is the food processor and processing it a little longer than you'd think is necessary. I mix the ingredients until all are combined then scrape down the sides of the processor. Turn it back on and process the hummus 3-4 minutes longer.

It makes some of the best hummus I've ever eaten, including those I've purchased or had at Middle Eastern restaurants. In fact, I never buy hummus at the grocery anymore. What I make tastes so much better.

EMR said...

My child favorite is mashed potato with butter or slices of soft bread and butter.She can munch on these any time of the day and relishes her food.

Anonymous said...

You can get testy about it or not -- hummus is trendy, unless you were raised in California, most of mainstream culture had not experienced hummus regularly until a few years ago. I guarantee you it was not in the fridge section of your local Kroger until the 2000's.

Anonymous didn't argue it didn't exist, simply that it was trendy.

Food trends DO come and go. Nothing to feel bad about. Let's just be thankful heathly is trendy at the moment.

But while physical health is important, there are other things in life. Just as a gentle reminder to all you parents out there. I will tell you I grew up on frozen chicken nuggets (gasp!)and Happy Meals and was rarely sick. My cousins grew up on tofu and greens and are still some of the sickliest folks I know. On the other hand, my parents were together, at home regularly, didn't overtax us with their dreams at the expense of times with us, and we are a happy functioning family. While aunt and cousins moved from state to state while she persued a career following her dream. That family is strained and rather resentful. There is emotional health and stability too.

Natalie said...

What's with the negativity and the need to insult others? That's great you don't get sick, whatever you grew up on.

As for healthy snacks, I like to make an apple "worm" by cutting it in chunks and putting a swoosh of peanut butter between them to stick them together. Then arrange them to look like a worm or caterpillar with raisin eyes. Also momma and baby bother eat hummus (myself with veggies and baby with her fingers).

Sophie said...

I used to LOVE little skewers. My mom would stack any three of the following on a toothpick:
-cold cuts
-leftover meat from dinner
-cherry tomato
-pieces of cucumber, bell peppers, zucchini, etc.

They were my favorite snack!

Libby said...

Portable snacks are absolutely necessary for my six year old, and get packed along with with the Benadryl and EpiPens. (Yup, mine is the kiddo with multiple, life-threatening food allergies.)

Pretzels and raisins are my two standbys, along with an emergency juicebox. (Apple juice, not the red sugar water.) Fresh fruit would be nice, but these are for the emergency stash, when I need to feed him unexpectedly.

His favorite planned snacks, either at home or on the go, are soy yogurt, little graham cracker squares with sunflower spread, a banana slice, and a raisin on top of them, and fruit on a drinking straw "skewer." (No, I don't trust him with sharp, pointy things!)