I admit it – I am a grazer, I love snacks and snacking. Some health experts support the method of eating little bits at intervals all throughout the day, while others, like the French, recommend just 3 meals and 1 snack for a healthy body weight. I have self-diagnosed myself as a sufferer of hypoglycemia – I get shaky and very tired if I get over-hungry, among other symptoms – but over the years I have found that if I eat a snack and drink water in time, I can head it off and not have to suffer. I remember being a child and bugging my mom for a snack though she was in the process of making dinner, but not because I just wanted to eat, but because I was shaky and needed something; thus, as my children have been learning to eat, I have always kept my past in mind and give them something when they ask for it, because that snack might be important.
I try to get the kids mid-morning snacks since cereal isn’t really filling nor a balanced food, and afternoon always has to be filled in with a snack as well. Here are some of my kids’ favorite healthy snacks, foods that I have to stock up on every time I go to the store.
Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
Blueberries are generally considered a super-food because they are full of cancer-fighting antioxidants, vitamins C and K, as well as lots of fiber. My kids love them because they are super sweet, and small and easy for little fingers to handle. Frozen blueberries are good, healthy treats for little guys that are teething too, though they could be a choking hazard, so be sure to supervise your children while they are eating. I like them as a snack because they aren’t very messy, but beware: frozen berries that have defrosted on the couch can stain the fabric. In July or August, we go to a local blueberry farm and pick gallons of organic blueberries to freeze for the winter; this method is the most economic because we can get two gallons of berries for about $16, whereas frozen bags go for almost $10 for two pounds! I have also found that the berries that we picked ourselves are a little less messy as they thaw out on the kids’ fingers and mouths.
Soy beans come in multiple eating choices, I’m going to focus on two of those: edamame and rehydrated dried beans. Edamame is green soybeans picked before they dry on the branch. Here in the US, I have only seen fresh edamame at farmer’s markets or from our own garden. If you don’t have a garden nor shop at a farmer’s market, edamame can also be found in the frozen produce section of well-stocked supermarkets. Frozen edamame comes in-pod or as loose beans, both are fun to eat. Loose frozen green soybeans can be eaten defrosted or, as Elizabeth enjoys, still frozen. They are mildly sweet, and have a slightly crunchy texture – nothing like a black bean and the opposite of a lima bean. In-pod beans need to be defrosted in order for the pods to be broken open to get the beans out; this is fun for little kids and helps develop fine-motor skills which kids need for hand-writing. Edamame is a good source of vitamin C, folate, thiamin, protein and potassium, among other nutrients.
Dried soy beans come in a multitude of colors – from black to green to white – but most varieties available to purchase in stores are white. Rehydrated, their skins slip off and they break apart into two halves. These beans also have a crunchy texture and a mild taste like the edamame, and are an excellent in hamburgers, spaghetti sauce and all sorts of foods when ground up. Kids like them because they are fun finger goods and not too bold in flavor. Rehydrated soybeans are a good source of iron, protein, fiber, and calcium, among other nutrients. Dried soy beans can be found with the other dried beans, in the health food section, or Asian and latin food sections of well-stocked supermarkets, or in bulk food stores.
Kids love the sweet and crunchy taste of carrots. But what happens when you hand them a purple carrot? They go crazy! Farmer’s markets often have colorful varieties of heirloom carrots, stocked supermarkets should carry them too. Colored carrots come in purple, red and yellow varieties, as well as the traditional orange. Nutrient densities varies depending on the color of the carrot, that’s why they say “Eat the rainbow,” aka: a purple carrot would have more anthocyanin than an orange carrot, which would, in turn, have more beta-carotene which gives it the orange color. To serve the carrots to your kids, scrub it with a scrubby rather than peeling it so that the nutrients in the skin are not lost. My kids enjoy chewing on the carrots whole, but you are welcomed to slice them in anyway that you like best.
Want to see what colored carrots look like? Click to be rerouted to Bing for some images.
We all love carving pumpkins at Halloween-time, and most of us know that the seeds can be cleaned, roasted and eaten as a healthy snack. Kids love pumpkin seed snacks too. At our house, pumpkin seeds are eaten in three varieties: roasted, dried but raw, and pepitas or store-bought green pumpkin seeds. To make your own roasted pumpkin seeds, collect the seeds from the pumpkin’s innards, remove the gook, spread on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 350 degrees F until slightly golden and completely dried, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
Roasted pumpkin seeds are crunchy and salty, but dried, raw pumpkin seeds are worth a try as they have a pleasant, mild sweetness that is cooked out when roasted. To dry them raw, just spread them out on some newspaper in the sun and let them rest. It may take a week or so for them to dry completely. Turn them every day so that all parts get dried completely; the skins will flake off and cause a mess though. When they are completely dried, put them in a plastic zip-lock bag and shake to help remove the skins, then pour those off outside. Store in an air-tight container or bag.
We find green pepitas in bulk food stores locally. These are roasted and salted and have a pleasant crunch when eaten, kind of popping in the mouth because they are hollow on the insides. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, healthy fats, copper, manganese and vitamin E, among other nutrients.
These are just a sampling of the snacks that are passed out at our house, but some of the kids’ absolute favorites. Share you thoughts: What are some of the healthy snacks that your kids love to eat?
Nutritional value sources:
Blueberries, soy beans and carrots: Simply In Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert
Carrots: The World’s Healthiest Foods
Pumpkin seeds: nutrition-and-you.com