Now that summer is here, my days have suddenly filled up with playdates, trips to the zoo, and long mornings at the splash park. With two active kids under the age of four, I always have to have a stash of filling snacks on hand.
Although my kids enjoy their fair share of fun "treat" foods, especially in the summer, the curse (or blessing?) of being a registered dietitian is that I am well aware of every ingredient that my kids eat. I know that most store-bought cookies or fruit snacks might keep my kids satisfied for half an hour until they become ravenous again.
The challenge, I've found as a health-conscious mom, is trying to find a balance between health and convenience when I'm on the go with my little ones. Finding portable snacks that I feel good about feeding my kids (and eating myself) can be challenging, as I'm sure many moms can attest to.
In my quest to find that balance between health, taste, and portability, I've come up with a few snack options that can also be transformed into meals. Here are some of our new go-tos:
Instead of making the same old "wrap" sandwiches, turn your whole grain tortillas into colourful and kid-friendly "sushi rolls" using different cut-up fruits, veggies and spreads. I prepare these the night before, chill them after I've rolled them up and then cut them into individual bite size sushi rolls either before leaving the house or when we've reached our destination. Be creative and don't be afraid to test out some weird and wonderful combinations. Some of our favourites are:
Instead of using bread (which often becomes soggy) to make sandwiches, try using healthy crackers, such as Nairn's Oat Crackers. Kids love crackers because they are crunchy and fun to eat, but it's hard to find crackers that aren't full of trans fats, additives and preservatives.
Nairn's oat crackers and cookies (they come in 7 yummy varieties!) are wheat free and made from organic whole grain oats, which are naturally high in soluble fibre—a fibre that allows energy to be released gradually, preventing blood sugar peaks and drops—which helps to keep kids (and adults) fuller longer and sustains energy levels longer.
What I love the most about these crackers is that they are free of added sugar, preservatives, additives, artificial colours and flavours, as well as genetically modified ingredients. I also love that they don't fall apart (they're durable!), like many crackers do, in our lunch bag.
Try making "crackerwiches" with protein-rich foods such as cheese, hummus, and nut butters as well as fresh fruits and veggies. Our favourite combinations are peanut butter and banana, strawberry jam and cheddar cheese, almond butter and raisins, and cream cheese and cucumber rounds.
For more yummy topping ideas, check out Nairn's Oatcake Recipes.
Instead of buying trail mix, make your own by combining your favourite nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, and whole grain cereal into a container or baggy to take with you in your purse, diaper bag, or lunchbag. I keep a giant container of nuts, seeds and dried fruit in our pantry, and before leaving the house, fill a baggy full and add the cereal in last minute so that it doesn't become soft. If one of your kids has a nut allergy, you could use seeds or roasted chickpeas instead. Try to choose a cereal without a lot of added sugar or preservatives. Have your kids choose their favourite combinations.
These are super easy and packed full of nutrition. Slice a whole apple into three large slices (removing the core and seeds from each slice). Layer the slices on top of one another with your choice of spreads, toppings or fillings. We usually stick cheese slices in between the first layer and natural nut butter with dried fruit in between the second layer. My son finds it easier to eat the top first and then dig in to the rest.
We often make French toast or whole grain pancakes on the weekend for breakfast and I always make sure to cook extra for snacks during the week. Cut leftover French toast or pancakes into strips and pack along with your kids' favourite dips. Our favourite dip is made up of a mixture of 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt + 1 tbsp natural peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. This dip also works great for crackers and fresh fruit.
Who doesn't love finger foods? This snack (or meal) is fun for kids, easy to prepare, and easy to pack. Purchase a container with several compartments or several small containers and fill them with your kids favourite finger foods such as raisins, cheese, roasted chick peas, fresh fruit, veggie strips, healthy dips and high fibre, healthy crackers.