Top hacks: The A to Z of healthy snacks for kids

 

With summer approaching, finding convenient, tasty and nutritious snacks can be a challenge for many parents looking to set children on a path of healthy eating.

And kids who fill up on fatty and sugary foods are more likely to suffer from problems like overweight, poor concentration and weak bones.

"Research suggests that what we eat may affect not just our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing," child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg says.

"To boost the mental health of children, parents should focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon."

Mum and co-author of Smart Snacks, Flip Shelton, offers top hacks and easy treats every parent and child show know, going from A-Z.

Flip Shelton with her son Harvey (right) and his friend Fergus (left). Picture: Supplied
Flip Shelton with her son Harvey (right) and his friend Fergus (left). Picture: Supplied

Avocados are a nutrient-dense food and contain 20 vitamins and minerals. Use avos in a smoothie, guacamole or an icy-pole.

 

Banana bread might sound like a nutritionally-dense food, but many commercially-produced banana breads often only have a hint of banana and carry a lot of sugar, fat and processed white flour.

 

Cashews and dates (equal parts) with a sprinkling of ground ginger and blended and rolled makes a delicious and nutritious gingerbread ball.

 

Dates are my go-to snack. Medjool dates have a naturally sweet caramel taste and are loaded with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Pop pitted dates in the freezer for 30 minutes for a chewy snack.

 

Eggs are the ultimate fast food. Boil for a few minutes (5 minutes for medium and 8 minutes for hard boiled), then peel and eat.

Avocados are nutrient-dense food.
Avocados are nutrient-dense food.

Fruiticles are so simple to make. Chop up grapes, mango, kiwifruit and fill half an icy-pole mould. Fill the remaining space with water or juice. Freeze overnight then enjoy on a hot day.

 

Grapes are an awesome snack option especially for younger kids, and can be popped into the freezer for 30 minutes for a refreshing snack.

 

Hummus makes a delicious dip or sandwich spread instead of butter. Add a tin of drained and rinsed chickpeas with garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil.

 

Intuitive eating is when we listen to our real hunger cues and rational thought. We eat because we are hungry, emotional, bored or thirsty. It's the same for our kids. Think before you eat.

 

Jugs of "happy water" are a great way to gently flavour water and encourage everyone to stay hydrated. Fill a big jug of water with slices of blueberries, strawberries, oranges and lemons and a sprig of mint.

 

Grapes are great when frozen.
Grapes are great when frozen.

Kale chips are easy to make and eat. Chop leaves into "chip" size, put in a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil and massage the oil into the leaves ensuring they are evenly coated. Add salt, chilli or garlic flakes.

 

Labels reveal what is actually contained in the product as far as protein, carbohydrates including sugars, fat including saturated, fibre and sodium to help you make a wise decision.

 

Mandarins are the perfect snack for lunch boxes because they travel well. Kids find them easy to peel and then separate the segments.

 

Nutrients are important when it comes to snacks. Calories are fine but 100 calories of a piece of fruit is not the same as 100 calories of a fibre-stripped fruit juice which is often made with reconstituted fruit pulp.

 

Out of sight, out of mind. If you or your kids tend to snack on things that are in plain sight, then don't buy them or hide towards the back of the cupboard and eat only on occasions.

Mandarins are the perfect snack for kids’ lunch boxes.
Mandarins are the perfect snack for kids’ lunch boxes.

Portion distortion is alive and well. Research tells us we are eating larger snacks more often and with less nutritional quality, leading to being overweight or obese.

 

Quality counts. Don't underestimate the power of snacks and the impact they can have on your kids' blood sugar levels, mood, concentration and long-term effects on their physical and mental wellbeing.

 

Real food is the stuff your grandmother would recognise. Choose to eat more of this and less of the packaged stuff.

 

Smoothies are filling and pack a nutritional punch. Put some ingredients out and get the kids to choose what they want. Hide a some spinach in a banana smoothie.

 

Tinned chickpeas are a lifesaver. Drain, wash and drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and spices. Cook on 200° C for 20 minutes or until golden.

Roasted vegetables make for an excellent snack.
Roasted vegetables make for an excellent snack.

Understand you can't make changes overnight without blowback. If you're wanting to make changes to your kids and your snack choices, do it one mouthful at a time.

 

Vegetables, roasted. If the oven is on, you might as well throw in an extra tray or two. Cold roast vegies are an excellent snack.

 

Walnuts look like a brain and the nutrients in them are good for our brain. Nutrition Australia recommends we all eat about 30g of nuts daily.

 

Xigua or Chinese watermelon has high water content and helps hydrate kids. Cut into wedges and keep chilled in the fridge for whenever hunger or thirst strikes.

 

Yoghurt is a good source of protein and fat so it's filling and satisfying. Add with chopped fresh fruit or apple puree.

 

Ziplock bags are a great product to portion and label snacks and to store ripened bananas, avocados and chopped fruit in the freezer for a ready supply for smoothies.

 

Originally published as Top hacks: The A to Z of healthy snacks for kids

Dates are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Dates are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Cashews make for a great afternoon snack.
Cashews make for a great afternoon snack.

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