By Debbie Koenig
For great ideas for healthy snacks, we went to the source: registered dietitians who are also moms. And they’re not wasting time on prep and presentation. “I serve my kids simple, basic snacks since I have little time for anything fancy,” says Janel Funk, MS, RD, LDN, a Boston-based dietitian. “And since I cook most of our meals from whole, fresh foods, I don't want to spend more time in the kitchen making snacks.”
Katie Morford, MS, RD, agrees. The voice behind the blog Mom's Kitchen Handbook, Morford’s goal is max nutrition with minimal effort. “The great majority of kids (and grown-ups) don't eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables,” she says. “Snack time is a great opportunity to load up on more goodies from the produce aisle.”
“My 15-month-old twins’ favorite is freeze-dried strawberries,” says Funk. “I love them because the only ingredient is strawberries!”
Simple Produce Picks
Funk’s older child has a wider range of favorites, but they’re equally simple: “My three-year-old son loves [fruit-and-nut] snack bars, apples, clementines, black olives, and dried baby bananas.”
Fruit works for Morford’s kids, too, and she makes it special with minimal effort: “Spear half of a banana onto a [wooden] stick, dip in vanilla yogurt, roll in unsweetened coconut, and freeze. The frozen banana is a treat, but a healthy one, with a nice dose of potassium and little in the way of added sugar.”
A Streamlined Serving Suggestion
For super-fast cleanup, skip bowls and plastic containers and simply serve snacks wrapped in, or on top of, a Bounty paper towel.
Satisfying Apple Rings
Another quick-yet-fun fruit snack Morford recommends features apples. “Core an apple, slice it crosswise into rings, spread peanut butter on top of each ring, and sprinkle on granola,” she says. “Nut butter is loaded with nutrients and healthy fats, and it's the sort of snack that will really hold you over for a couple of hours.”
Popcorn With a Healthy Twist
Kelda Reimers, RD, LD, a Washington, DC, dietitian and mom of a preschooler, opts for easy whole-grain choices. “I serve air popped corn, with a drizzle of fish oil [for kids]. The oil is rich in omega-3s and has a very mild lemon flavor added so my 3 year old likes it, and no added salt is necessary.”
PB & Fruit
Another Reimers go-to also features whole grains: “We do whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter and fresh berries rather than jam or jelly, to eliminate any added sugar.”
Morford reminds us not to neglect vegetables: “Blend a small roasted sweet potato (remove the peel) into your favorite hummus along with a generous squeeze of lemon juice,” she says. “The sweet potato adds fiber and vitamin A. It also bumps up the color and flavor.”
Exotic Spiced Veggies
To make run-of-the mill crudités kid-friendly, “Cut up crunchy vegetables, such as jicama, cucumbers, and bell peppers, and add a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of Tajín, a Mexican seasoning blend you can find in supermarkets,” Morford says. “It's a pretty addictive snack, and my kids can take down a whole plate full without a problem.”
What healthy snacks do you feed your kids?
Debbie Koenig writes about family and food, and is the author of the cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too. Find her at debbiekoenig.com.