5 Easy Hacks to Feed Your Kids Healthy Snacks

If you're anything like me, few things bring on more mom guilt than realizing at the end of the day that I didn't feed my kids healthy snacks. Let's be honest, some days all I have the capacity for is shoving bags of fruit snacks in the general direction of my children, or pouring milk into the bowls of cereal they helped themselves to.

Maybe it's a silly thing to allow myself to be derailed by, but since what my kid's put in their mouths is one aspect of life I have a decent amount of control over, I get after myself a little bit when I don't quite hit the nutritional benchmark.

I've always been quite nutrition conscious in what I myself choose to consume, and I've tried to instill the same concern for proper diet in my kids. One of the things I think has the biggest impact is teaching them to love healthy snacks–and here's how I do that.

1. I plan ahead

If I've learned anything since becoming a mom, it's that if something isn't convenient, I'm not going to do it. This was an especially rude awakening for me, since my background is in culinary arts–I used to spend hours on meals and other food related tasks before I got married and had kids. I've discovered the most surefire way to make certain my kids have healthy snacking options is by setting aside a small amount of time at the beginning of the week to prep some snacks that will last me until the next grocery trip.

A few of my favorite things to prep ahead of time?

  • Apple slices. Cut 4-5 large apples into slices and toss with 1/8 cup water and juice from 1 lemon. Place in an airtight container in the fridge. The lemon juice + water combination will keep the apples from significantly browning. They'll stay tasty and crisp for about a week.
  • Cucumber spears or slices
  • "Brownie" bites. Pulse 1 cup pitted dates, 1/2 cup cocoa powder,  2 cups almonds, a pinch of salt, and a dash of vanilla in a food processor until a slightly sticky dough forms. Press into a pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate. Once set, cut into bite-sized squares. 
  • Halved strawberries. I soak the berries in a mild solution of water and white vinegar (about 2 TBS vinegar : 1 qt water). This keeps them fresh longer. After the soak, remove the stems, slice them in halves, and place in a container in the fridge. I usually leave the corner of the container cracked for the berries–they stay good longer if they can "breathe."

2. I offer a variety

One of my goals with snacking is always to give my kids a variety. I find snack time is a great time to introduce them to new foods, because snack time holds less pressure than meal time. Kids know that snacks are an optional thing, and no one is going to be riding them to finish every bite (I don't recommend pressuring your kids to finish all their food at meal times either, but that's a post for another time). 

My favorite method for giving my kids a variety of foods to snack on, as well as introducing new foods is by using a muffin tin. I picked up these flexible silicone muffin trays and since then my kids request "snack plates" all the time. 

When I make a "snack plate" I use the 6 muffin holes to guide what I put in. I aim for:
  1. A Veggie                                                                               
  2. Another veggie
  3. A fruit (fresh or dried–depends on what I have on hand. Sometimes my kids get a big old scoop of applesauce with cinnamon on top.)
  4. A protein–nuts, cottage cheese, cheese stick, grilled chicken pieces, lunch meat, roasted chickpeas, hummus, etc.
  5.  Something the kids really enjoy. The portions are so small, and since they're eating a great variety of other nutritious foods, I feel like the snack plate is a great time to slip in something fun like bunny grahams, goldfish, a small cookie, a piece of chocolate, or a few fruit snacks. It makes them feel excited about what they've been given, which makes them feel more inclined to eat the other things. 
  6. Something new. Once again, the small portions really help with the introduction of a new food. And because it's mixed in with things my kids are already familiar with, they don't feel as intimidated trying something new.

NOTE: I don't force my kids to try the new thing if they don't want to. I encourage it–"This is a food I really enjoy. I'd love for you to try a bite"–but I don't force it. I find exposure is one of the greatest keys to success in getting your kids to try new things anyway! The more they see it, the less foreign it becomes, and the more likely they are to try it. 

3. I make healthy snacks easily accessible 

Because I'm often so busy trying to juggle the needs of my kids with the needs of my home, and the needs of my job, I try to make getting a healthy snack easy enough that my kids can do it without my assistance. 

There are a lot of ways you can do this, but what's worked for us is to use the nifty divider we have in the deli drawer of our refrigerator to cordon off a section that is just for the kids. They know that when it's snack time, they can pick anything from that spot.

I also have a shelf in our pantry that houses snacks that the kids are welcome to help themselves to. It has things like small containers of nuts, applesauce pouches, baggies of wheat crackers or lightly salted popcorn, and dried fruit.

4. I create single-servings

Another hack for snack time success is having things readily available in child-sized portions. At the grocery store, there are a lot of great options like fruit cups (look for ones packed in 100% juice!), low fat cheeses, yogurt tubes, and hummus cups.

After I get home from our weekly grocery trip, I make up some single serve containers of my own. I'll usually pack apple slices, snap peas, and baby carrots into small plastic containers or baggies to stash in the kid spot in the fridge.

One of the greatest benefits of this method, is that we have healthy snacks ready to go in travel friendly packaging that we can grab quickly on our way out the door. I often snag a bag of peas or a container of apple slices on my way out the door to work. If we're going to be gone for more than an hour, I'll toss the snacks into an insulated lunch tote with a small ice pack that I keep in our freezer so we can keep our snacks fresh. 

I LOVE this size of the Glad containers–they are so perfect for a small serving of fruit or veggie slices!

5. I make it an activity

My last tip for helping your kids have healthy attitudes about snacking is to make whatever part of the process into an activity! Where the fun is, is where the kids will be. 

Get the kids involved in your snack prep for the week! My kids love to help me wash produce, and especially love to help cut. I love the Curious Chef knife set–my kids use it all the time and it is practically impossible to cut little fingers with these knives, yet they cut most everything quite well. 

The more we can positively expose our kids to the processes involved in eating, the more they will be joyful eaters.

I'm also not one of those moms that things playing with food is bad. There's a time and a place for it, and I think snack time is the perfect time. I love to give my kids a snack plate and ask them to create something out of it!

One thing I would really love to get our kids for Christmas this year are these plates from Dylbug–I think they (and I!) would have such a blast creating outfits and scenes with their food.

Now that we've talked so much about how to help our kids snack healthfully, I also want to be very clear that it's definitely okay to have days when your kids eat fruit snacks, cookies, and goldfish. Even though I feel it sometimes, we shouldn't have mom guilt for letting our kids inhale a sleeve of graham crackers like it's their last meal every once in a while. Healthful snacking the majority of the time is an excellent goal, but it's nothing to be neurotic about. Snack time should be enjoyable for us too, mamas, so if we aren't feeling the joy in the process of getting our kids a healthy snack one day, I give us all permission to chuck a shiny Pop-tart bag into those eager hands and call it good. 

What are your favorite healthy snacks to serve your kiddos? What are your best "snack hacks?"

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