Serendipitous Snacking

When it comes to snack foods, many parents choose what’s readily available or what’s convenient. This often means highly processed, sugary foods with little or no nutritional value. Wise parents choose serendipitous snacking – offering kids fun foods they enjoy that are good for them.

You may be surprised to learn that offering your kids healthy snacks can cost less than the more expensive processed snacks that have considerably less nutritional value. Also keeping an open mind and a willingness to try new things can broaden the tastes of your children, making snack time a culinary adventure. You may find yourself snacking on things that you’ve never tasted before.

Most families with young kids are familiar with “ants on a log;” this simple snack, made with celery sticks, peanut butter and raisins, is a staple in many homes. For those not allergic to nuts, peanut butter can be a good choice in snack foods since it has 8% dietary fiber, which is important in controlling cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Raw peanut butter has even more nutrients than the processed, which contains vitamins E and B3 as well as potassium, iron and calcium. It’s also very high in protein.

The down side is that it is high in calories and fat and refined peanut butter can contain those nasty trans-fatty acids. Still, in moderation it is a good thing because it also contains omega-3 acids, which are necessary for heart and brain health and the natural nutrient. This fights off bacteria and fungi from the peanut plant and studies show that people acquire anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties when it’s consumed. So let the kids dip those apple slices, carrot sticks and celery rods in the gooey stuff.

For those families who need to stay far away from nuts, there are plenty of other safe foods with great nutritional value. Creative presentation will get most kids to eat raw veggies. Kids love pretending to be little giants when they eat the “trees” made from broccoli florets. You can slice up a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits and let the kids create food art. Think logs (julienne cut carrots, celery), wheels (sliced cucumbers, mushrooms), clouds (cauliflower or mounds of yogurt or veggie dip), trees (broccoli), eyes (raisins, cherry tomatoes, or olives), lips (tomato and green pepper slices), hair (sprouts) etc. and include the kids because their imaginations will come up with things you never thought of. Be sure to take a picture of their creations before they start eating.

Raw vegetables and fruits provide many beneficial nutrients for kids and adults and help boost their immune system. While purchasing organic may be a bit more costly, the benefits in decreased exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals is worth the cost when it comes to your child’s health. Whether organic or not, always remember to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them.

Kids may also enjoy making wraps with different fillings. Tortillas, veggie wraps, wonton skins, and even lettuce leaves can be used to make a variety of wraps. Healthy fillings include cheeses, veggies, peanut butter, lean meats, tuna, etc. If you have a serving container with several sections, you can fill each section with a different ingredient and let you kids make their own wraps.

Exploring new foods such as jicama, kiwi, tamarind, kohlrabi, and other exotic fare can help your child learn to not only eat healthy foods, but also enjoy trying new things. You can make an adventure out of snack time by visiting the farmer’s market, your local co-op or Whole Foods store and scouting out new foods to try.

What new tastes have your kids tried lately?

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