Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Snack Dilemma

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Growing up, my Mom didn't "do" snacks.  I never saw a goldfish cracker until I was older, babysitting other families.  We rarely had graham crackers in the house.  We simply did not do snack food.  However, there was always plenty to eat:  If you were hungry between meals, there were always apples in the bowl in the kitchen.  And Mom would always cut up raw veggies, set them out on a plate and in minutes they would be gone.  She didn't set out a bowl of Ranch dressing next to them.  She simply cut up carrots, celery, green peppers and cucumbers, set them in a dish and walked away.

She never made anyone eat them.  She didn't have to.  If you were hungry, that is what there was to eat.  And so, we ate them.

When I had my own child, I started in with the snacks.  Goldfish were on the weekly shopping list.  Apple juice was a staple.  Snacks of every shape and size were in the cupboard, waiting for when my little guy was hungry for something in between meals.

I have since moved on from that mentality - not only is it not particularly healthy (kids really do not need all those refined flour, bready items and rarely get enough fruits and vegetables), but it is expensive!  I often hear people say how expensive it is to buy produce, but consider this:  one pound of green peppers are $1.29.  A bag of goldfish is now about $2 and, with my crew, only withstands one snack time.  I frequently get 3 lbs of apples for $3...a dollar a pound.  Fruit snacks - they are called fruit snacks, but if you read the ingredients, they are essentially candy - are around $2 a box and again, don't go very far.  They are horrible for kids' teeth, and cost more than a bag of carrots.  Apple juice is a non essential if your children are eating real fruits and vegetables.  It is also expensive and not great for teeth either - we stick to water.

But how do you make your kids eat healthy?

How about this:  don't offer anything else.  Kid's are not going to starve.  If they are hungry for a snack and you cut up apples and some cheese, that is what there is.  They can eat it or not, their decision.  But that is what is for snack.

It isn't that I don't have a picky eater, I do.  He pushes back on every casserole I make, pretends he's going to die if I make him take a bite of cheesy potatoes, and is in general incredibly distrustful of food.  He eats his vegetables.

The issue seems to be more with the discipline of the parent than that of the child.  Goldfish are convenient.  Taking 10 minutes to chop vegetables isn't.  Kids love fruitsnacks and are thrilled when you put them out.  A quiet plate of apple slices may not get the accolades, but kids will eat them.  Still, an important part of being a parent is modeling correct eating for your children.  They are learning about nutrition from you, and you are setting the foundation of their lifetime eating habits now.  I know that I still adhere to the nutritional guidelines my mom set in motion years ago.

I want to make a quick note that I do sometimes buy those other, not so great snack foods.  If I can get a bag of goldfish on super sale for $1, I will surprise my kids and everyone is thrilled.  Sometimes we get fruit snacks and put them in Christmas stockings as a special treat.  But gone are the days of these being grocery staples for our family.

Want ideas for healthy kid snacks?  Here you go:

1) Cut up vegetables.  I do this usually twice a day - morning snack and before dinner snack, when everyone is hungry and ready to eat something.  Don't put ranch dressing next to it - there is no need.  They will eat the veggies without it if it is not there.

2) Apples and peanut butter, or solo apple slices.

3) Popcorn.  Yep, popcorn.  It is a whole grain and really not that bad for you.  Make it yourself and be in control of what goes on it (don't use the bagged popcorn with all the weird ingredients).  My kids love eating this with a few slices of cheese.

4) Whole wheat bread with honey.  Bonus points if you made the bread at home. (No honey for littles under 2!)

5) Whole grain chips and salsa.  A bit more expensive, and not such a hit with little people, but mama loves it!

6) Hummus and celery sticks

What are your favorite healthy snacks for little people?

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  1. Oh, I love this post. We are on a never ending quest to get our girls to eat healthful foods. We don't do snacks either. I am always amazed at the MASSES of snack crackers that our consumed by little ones. We do buy them, but as a special treat.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep things simple, and to leave off the Ranch dip!

    I am adding myself as a follower!

  2. Caspar is already hooked on humus and yogurt with a little agave nectar. What are people's thoughts on making your own humus? I feel like the cost of 3 cans of beans, lemons, garlic, and the tahini ($$$$) costs way more then a tub of humus. (plus cleaning the food processor.)

  3. La Dolce - thanks for the add!

    Nikki - I think the only way it is probably less $$ is if you buy the beans dry (they are much cheaper that way and you more beans for your buck). I find TJ's hummus to be super cheap, so we buy that occasionally. Mostly though I prefer the kids to eat their veggies raw - without any dip.

  4. I do make my own hummous, but I buy canned beans in bulk and have access to a great middle eastern import store, so I can get tahini quite inexpensively. Because I have a kid with a lemon and garlic allergy, making my own is a must!

  5. Now that my littlest can do nuts...peanuts in the shell. SO CHEAP, and they have fun cracking them open. :D

  6. apples & cheese, cheese & crackers, hummus....those are my favs! Sadly I don't think I have any apples or hummus in the house right now: (

    I used to buy those expensive 'puff' baby snacks... not much food for the amt you pay!

  7. Another snack my kids love is almonds. Sometimes just the plain ones, and sometimes I splurge on the cocoa almonds. A great protein snack, it doesn't take much to fill them up, and it adds calcium to their diets as well.

  8. In addition to the things you mentioned - we love chickpea "popcorn", frozen peas, and when Geneva was younger, I'd lightly blanch carrot sticks and other tougher veggies to make them easier to eat.

  9. Love this post! I've been searching for good snack ideas lately, and it looks like I've just been over-thinking the whole thing. More fresh fruits and veggies here we come! :)

  10. I just had this conversation with my husband the other day. He brought home a box of cookies and the kids ate them...but then he brought home a bag of grapes and it was, "Thanks Daddy!!!" They were so excited. My kids love their fruits and veggies, and they get more excited for them than junk.

    I think we all need to give kids more credit.

    I've also found that they are more willing to eat them if they can help themselves. My produce drawer is full of apples and carrots and sliced cucumbers and they know that the drawer is never off limits. Even my one year old will open the drawer and dig out an apple.

  11. Love all the ideas! Keep them coming, ladies!

  12. Hi Lydia ... Your tips are so helpful. My girls (one of them named Lydia!) love cheese, yogurt and strawberries for snacks.

    I found you recently through The High Calling network. I want to thank you for the voice you bring to the community.

    - Jennifer Dukes Lee
    Contributing Editor @ The High Calling

  13. Awesome Lydia! So true as well! I stopped buying the junk and they stopped eating it! It's as simple as that! If they want some cookies, we bake them!

    One we love (although maybe not when it's cold) are smoothies. I freeze every chunk of fruit they don't eat when it's offered and yogurt they don't finish, throw it in the blender with a little milk and you've got a super nutritious fun treat! You can even then freeze those into Popsicles!

  14. Awesome, awesome AWESOME post!!! Absolutely what I needed to hear as I make out my grocery list for the weekend shopping trip and suffer with this dilemma every single day! I think it is so nice to hear how your mom did things as I think you turned out great! Thanks for sharing what worked for you growing up and what you are now doing with success in your own sweet little family. God bless you today!

  15. I really love that you did this post- I totally agree. I have a very good eater, and while she doesn't eat everything she's given, she is never a slave to mac & cheese and crackers because I just don't keep them in the house. I'm very firm about this, if we have "treat" food, then it's just a one-time thing, not a regular item in the pantry. This really saves us both, and I won't be surprised if baby Asa is the same way when he starts to eat. I just provide good food, and she eats.

    Some of our favorite snacks are:

    -"peanut butter popsicles" (just PB on a spoon)
    -veggies and fruit (seasonally)
    -smoothies (made with yogurt/milk and frozen fruit and a little maple syrup. sometimes we freeze this into "pops")
    -popcorn with butter and nutritional yeast
    -soaked and dehydrated almonds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
    -corn chips

    It was so nice to see you the other day! :)

  16. We do pretty well with snacks, but currently I'm struggling with lunches. As the start of the school year approaches, I am trying to streamline everything and i am having a hard time creating a lunch menu. Any suggestions?



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