Packing snacks is often a last minute to-do during a hectic morning routine. Most people dash to the pantry, grab something quickly, and throw it in their child’s book bag just before heading out the door. But snack time is an important part of the day that deserves a few more moments of your time. The right snack will do exactly what it’s supposed to do—nourish and satisfy kids and give them the fuel and focus they need to make it until lunch.
Avoid putting your child on an energy roller coaster while at school with processed snacks—full of sugar and refined carbohydrates, which turn immediately to sugar in the body. These snacks may provide a temporary energy boost, but they also cause a major sugar crash, leaving kids lethargic, unfocused, and moody. Fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, maintain blood sugar and provide the necessary energy to ensure kids’ success.
So save the granola bars and crackers for weekends when the mental demands aren’t as high and physical activity is increased. This goes for big kids too (a.k.a. adults!). Instead, here are a few great ideas to add to your basic repertoire of baby carrots and celery sticks. They’re all great to have on hand for after school snacks too!
Fruit Kabobs. Kids love fruit right? Choose a few of their favorites (melon, grapes, strawberries, etc.) and mix in a few veggies to make a kabob! Vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers are all great options. Especially baby bell peppers—they’re particularly sweet, in season, and at their colorful best in the fall. And a great tip—instead of bamboo skewers, use popsicle sticks to make a safer fruit kabob.
Dipped veggies. Fill a small container (a 2 oz. baby food jar is a good size) with your child’s favorite dip—hummus, guacamole, pesto, salsa, or a creamy dressing. Then, cut veggies into short bite-sized pieces and pack them tightly in the container so that the ends of the veggies are in the dip. This makes the snack easy to eat and also saves you from keeping track of two containers.
Funny fruits. Have a little fun and play with your fruit! Instead of using post-its, write notes or jokes, draw pictures or smiley faces, or just say “I love you, now eat me” on bananas, oranges, nectarines, and clementines. Jokingly draw an arrow pointing to the nub end of a banana and write “Open this end.” Draw black lines on an orange for your young sports fan with the phrase, “Slam dunk your day.” Anything fun will do!
Cinnamon sticks. Toss thin slices of apple or pear into a plastic baggie or container and sprinkle generously with cinnamon. The extra touch of spice goes a long way! It’s simple and easy and can be prepared and kept in the fridge for a couple of days.
Nature’s candy bar. Open a medjool date—keeping it together on one side like a clam shell—and remove the pit. Fill the date with nut butter (if allowed at school), sunflower seed butter, pumpkin butter, soy butter, or coconut butter (also called coconut manna or coconut creme). Other great filling ingredients include raw almonds or dried coconut. For a special treat, add a few chocolate chips or a square of dark chocolate. Squish together and enjoy.
Don’t forget the water! Give your child a special BPA free water cup or thermos with his or her name on it. Find one with a squiggly straw or a fun shape—there are options with footballs, dinosaurs, cartoon characters, and more! Kids are much more apt to drink water if they have special cups that are fun and personal.
Healthy families snack together. If you want your child to eat more fruits and vegetables, you have to eat more too! When preparing back to school snacks, pack them for the entire family—if your child is getting fruit kabobs, pack them for mom and dad too. When your kids see that you’re excited and looking forward to the snack, they will be too. You can even make a fun game out of it, and have your child pick each day’s family snack. This goes for stay-at-home parents as well—if your snack is made ahead of time, you’re more apt to eat it rather than grabbing a chocolate bar or bag of chips on the go.