Delicious is very personal. What is delicious for you doesn’t really have to be for me. But in general, our kid’s tastes will develop according with what they eat and taste at home. If you offer them what you eat, and you find it delicious, most likely (and in general) they’ll find it delicious too. I have put together some tips for parents to make healthy snacks for children.
So the key here is to make their meaning of delicious (your delicious) a healthy one!
So, what makes a snack healthy?
Unfortunately, unless you really teach and work “with” your kids “together” towards healthy snack eating, it will be hard to win the “healthy snacks” battle.
The food manufacturing industry is well ahead. They have been studying what makes food “delicious” by finding the right combination of fat, salt… and sugar! Many, many, MANY processed foods, more specifically snacks, have been studied to make them attractive, addictive and delicious in a way that is NOT healthy. Usually, these types of snacks contain far too much sugar!
What else makes a snack healthy?
Before we start, the first “healthy” rule is that kids should rest at least 3 hours between meals or even snacks, so the metabolism isn’t always working with the risk of being burned out. And if you are replacing a formal meal with a “snack”, make it count!
Rules for a healthy snack:
1st it is far away as possible from highly manufactured food.
2nd it is packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals and protein. Basically, most “real” foods (the ones that you prepare from scratch and don’t come from packages) have some sort of nutrient. The art is how to balance them… fat, carbs and protein should be present in each healthy snack.
3rd it is low in sugar. That’s beginning to be a challenge nowadays, because many foods now have unnecessary sugar added just to make them more palatable, desirable or just “delicious”. If you don’t restrict the amount of unnecessary sugar, it will keep adding until is too much for your kids’ health.
Do you already feel overwhelmed trying to find the right snacks? Are you scared that your kid will refuse the “healthy” stuff in favor of the sugary treats? Are you wondering how will you bring the right balance?
Let’s find the way by preparing a plan and sticking to it with your kid.
But before we go on, let’s analyze what’s happening with the sugary treats…
Why is it difficult to manage the amount of sugary treats? And why should you care?
Handling everyday responsibilities is hard enough, and when you add your kids demanding for treats, it gets to be a lot to handle.
You know it is natural that they like treats. They taste good, almost all the other kids have them, and let’s face it, at some point the rewarding feeling and even emotional calm effect can make your day brighter. It can even get to the point that they are obsessed with them.
You know how bad sugar can be, but do you know that many manufactured foods contain high amounts of sugar? Do you know how much is too much? You can learn a bit more in this article about how much sugar children should have where you can even take a fun quiz about sugar.
The reality is that it is well-known that sugar can affect your child’s behavior and health.
Although there are not many scientific results on studies on how sugar affects behavior, many parents know it does, and some parents have even tested themselves.
What has been studied with more scientific rigor are the health benefits of cutting sugar.
Now that you know that it’s very easy to have too much sugar and how it can affect negatively to your kid, let’s see what you could do to try to avoid it.
What can you do to manage the amount of sugary treats your kid is having?
Implement a plan, with your kid if possible so you have more chances to succeed.
Make them understand what makes a snack healthy and what should be considered a treat for the amount of sugar it contains or other food additives.
They’ll hopefully understand and learn and probably be willing to work with you to balance healthy snacks and not so healthy treats but always try to make the best possible choice.
And it is OK to have from time to time not the best option, like a cake, ice cream, candy or a soda. The exception makes the rule and by allowing them to have that food from time to time instead of always try to avoid it, they’ll grow up into teens, young adults and adults with a much better relationship with food than if you always limit, prohibit or make them feel guilty about what they eat.
You know it. The more you try to restrict something, the more you desire it. And the more something is your free choice, the better you feel about it and the easier to implement it.
How to implement the plan in the practice?
In order to have your kids be part of the plan, not only do you need to talk and teach them, you need to implement a plan based on healthy snacks. And for that you need many options that may work for them and that they can choose from every day without getting bored.
As for “treats”, like too sugary or too artificial, I think that as a parent, the rule of one per week is a good compromise, allowing for an extra one for special occasions.
A small daily treat can always work wonders while negotiating the rest of the options.
Knowing that they can always count on a small piece of chocolate, cookie or a candy to choose from and to decide when is priceless.
22 Delicious Healthy Snacks for Children
6 Easy healthy snacks for kids
Whole wheat Quesadillas
Dumplings (pork or shrimp)
Tomato, mozzarella and olive salad
Wrapped Mexican tortilla with ham
Whole grain bread with any source of protein
Homemade fruit & yogurt or milk smoothie
4 Healthy quick snacks for kids
Hummus with vegetables
Guacamole with vegetables
Any Fruit & nuts, cheese or other protein
Yogurt & whole grain low sugar cereals
6 Healthy snacks for kids at school (healthy on the go snacks)
Baby Bell cheese with whole grain crackers, fruits or vegetables
Laughing cow cheese individuals with whole grain crackers fruits or vegetables
Squeezable fruit (apple, pear…) with individually wrapped mozzarella cheese.
Individual milk serving/carton
One serving of nuts
High protein but low sugar bars (King bar)
3 Healthy treats for kids
Homemade cookies, brownies or muffins that are made from scratch (or organic ones that are ready to cook)
Dark chocolate covered or with nuts (almonds, pistachios, etc.) or edamame.
Ice cream (check from a brand low in sugar with no vegetable fats or oils other than the milk fat)
3 More protein snacks for kids
It is important that all meals, including snacks, are balanced with carbs, fats and protein.
Many “traditional” snacks don’t have the necessary protein. Most foods that are a good source of protein also have some fat (also important to help you feel satiated), so always think about adding some protein to the snack.
Here you have 3 extra protein ideas you can add to a snack:
Organic hot-dogs (no nitrites or nitrates)
On top of the options already mentioned before:
Ham, pepperoni or salami (no nitrates or nitrites)
Pork or shrimp dumplings
What are your kid’s favorite delicious healthy snacks?
About the Author
Arantxa is a trained biologist, nutrition specialist and weight management coach. Born in Spain, she spent 5 years in Australia before moving to the US. Her motto is “Food is a pleasure. Nobody deserves to be on a diet.”
Find out more about Arantxa and 32 Mondays.