Want to save money and streamline your time in the kitchen, provide better nutrition to your family, and keep the kids happy when their stomachs start to rumble? Check out our 7 Smart Snacking Tips for fresh ideas guaranteed to improve the overall GPA of lunch box snack foods.
1. Plan Ahead: Packing lunches and snacks when you’re trying to get the kids fed and ready for school can bring on mommy stress big time. Instead of feeling overwhelmed at 7:00 AM, organize your kids’ lunch boxes the night before. Slice up veggies and place in mini containers; open a big bag of popcorn and portion out a kid-size serving in a zip-top bag; or take individually wrapped muffins or snack bars from the freezer, transfer to the fridge, and thaw overnight.
2. Think of Snacks as Mini Meals: What are the nutritional gaps in your child’s diet? Calcium? Vitamins A and C? High quality protein? Think about the foods and nutrients that are missing—calcium-rich dairy, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, protein-rich nuts and beans—and then craft snacks accordingly. A low-fat cheese stick with some sliced strawberries, hummus with carrot sticks for dipping, or a squeeze yogurt and a handful of grapes could hit the spot.
3. Make Snacks Fun and Playful: Kids are more likely to get excited about the healthy snacks if they’re presented in a fun and playful way. To that end, consider layering the ingredients for a yummy trail mix in a mason jar, make cute mini muffins to entice pint-size palates, or use containers with bright-colored lids.
4. Pack Snacks that Hold Up in a Lunch Box: There’s nothing worse than a mushy banana, warm grapes, or a soggy, squashed PB & J sandwich. Keep snacks cool, fresh, and well protected by adding an ice pack to your child’s lunch box and choosing containers designed to protect your healthy nibbles from the bangs and clangs backpacks endure daily!
5. Include Plenty of Produce: Most kids don’t eat enough fruits and veggies, so snack time offers the perfect opportunity for weaving more produce into the day. To make vegetables more appealing, cut into strips and coin shapes, and think variety—bell pepper strips, cucumber wheels, celery and carrot sticks, sugar snap peas—and pack a kid-friendly dip on the side such as hummus, ranch dressing, or Caesar. As for fruit, grapes hold up well as do sliced strawberries and oranges, blueberries, and apples. (Squeeze some lemon juice over the apples to keep them from browning.)
6. Opt for More Whole Grains: Whole grains have more fiber and nutrients than white, refined grains. If your kids tend to gravitate toward crackers, cookies, and other starchy munchies, make the switch to whole grain options. (Yes, you can even find a whole grain version of Goldfish at the market.) When baking, use some whole wheat flour, oats, and/or wheat germ instead of all white. Some Meal Makeover Mom recipes to consider: Blueberry Banana Snack Cake, Grab-and-Go Granola Bars, homemade granola, and Apple Butterscotch Squares.
7. Choose Healthy Thirst Quenchers: When kids fill up on sugary juice drinks and sports drinks there is often little room left for nutrient-rich snack foods. Instead, opt for water, real fruit smoothies, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit or vegetable juices. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice daily for kids ages 1 to 6 and 8 to 12 ounces daily for 7 to 18 year olds).