HEALTHY SNACKS AND KIDS: HOW TO MAKE IT WORK
By Jodi Bartle
Healthy snacks and kids - what an oxymoron.
Remember those wistful, idealised, pre-birth days, your belly huge with a wriggling as-yet-unknown baby, poring over pregnancy magazines with food articles and ideas for healthy snacks written by the Annabel Karmels of the world?
The deep-dives into the do’s and don’ts of feeding your kids and toddlers (Argh! Beware of peanut butter! Begone, strawberries!) with ambitious recipes for baby-friendly versions of mashed up lasagna and minestrone soup?
Remember batch cooking and fretting over non-organic carrots in the first weaning weeks, and the terrible feeling when you realised that every other baby and toddler seemed to eat better than yours did?
The guilt when yours threw the avocado onto the floor and demanded a biscuit - not quite the ‘healthy snack’ you were hoping to give your baby a lifelong appreciation for?
There’s a seasoned parenting point when you make your peace with all of this - all of the individual quirks and qualms of your kid’s appetites and palate, when you decide that plain pasta, half a carton of Greek yoghurt and one circle of cucumber for a straight week won’t actually matter that much in the long run.
You notice that after your kids get used to nursery and school dinners, a lot of the fussiness they display at home is forgotten in the collective, organised structure of Somewhere Else Other Than Home.
Except for maybe restaurants - mine have always decided that the best way to annoy my husband and I is to kick off in public, but that’s another story.
Once they grow up, you just have to hope that your good, healthy-eating role modelling has taken root somewhere in amongst those early years of refused vegetables, painstakingly disguised sweet potato added to everything, and the bits of sausages they’ve hidden in their pockets and later given to the dog.
Until then, though, us parents have a role to play in the lifelong challenge to get our children to eat well and to develop their own healthy eating habits - we want the kids to love what they eat.
A good relationship with food starts at home when they are tiny and until the kids are old enough to know your pin number, the food choices they make are up to us.
Over the years and over six mostly pretty healthy kids, I have learnt a few things.
Where do I start with healthy eating for kids?
Firstly, it helps to have a whole lot of good food in your fridge and cupboards - fresh fruits, a variety of in-season vegetables, whole grains, dried fruit and a good balanced mix of all the rest - so that your family’s healthy food choices and snack ideas are led not by panic-buying or fast food outlet walk-ins but by what’s in the fruit bowl, available at any time.
To help with this, since the kids were little we have used an online vegetable box delivery service every week.
Farmdrop (with the lovely zeitgeist-y tagline being “The Ethical Grocer”) offers a grocery service that sources from independent smaller farmers, growers and bakers.
The food is sourced locally as much as possible with fairer rates paid to suppliers, and there is a full range of fresh produce, fruit, vegetables, free-range meat, whole grains and cupboard staples delivered to your place.
We’ve grown used to opening our front door every Wednesday morning to find a new delivery, and the kids get straight into the box and devour half of it before it makes it into the kitchen.
For the rest, the website offers snack and meal recipes so you’ll end up with no waste - and some of them are perfect examples of healthy snacks for kids to make.
My regular order has always meant I’ve got the onions, carrots, apples and bananas that I will need throughout the week without needing to top up - cutting down the extra trips to the supermarket which usually leads me to spending more than I would have on low-blood-sugar hangry impulse buys (I like to think of our full fruit bowl as ‘free snacks’), and which also cuts down on supermarket plastic.
Farmdrop delivers everything in a recyclable cardboard box, with recyclable thermal packing - which really makes you realise how much we all rely on plastic packaging when we simply do not need to.
We also add weekly staples, the things I know we will need such as milk, tinned tomatoes, eggs, butter and cheese, so that the kids always have something to graze on - toasted organic cheddar on rye bread with fresh tomatoes, anyone?
The prices are comparable to supermarket costs and in a nod to sustainability, the food supplier source is aimed to be within a 150-mile radius to where you live where possible.
Delivery is by 100% electric vans, so you can feel better about the footprint, too.
We’ve teamed up with Farmdrop to offer THE LONDON MOTHER readers an exclusive discount of £25 off your shopping when you spend £60 or more.
Visit the NHS Change For Life website for other ideas on healthy snacks for kids and ways to keep the enamel on the teeth, the post-school fried chicken boxes to a minimum, the added-sugar-to-everything processed foods a treat and the vegetable consumption to be more than a weekly stray carrot stick.
What are ideas for good, after-school snacks that are healthy?
Offer your kids chopped up apples, cucumber and homemade snack bars (we make granola bars with leftover cereal, chocolate chips, coconut oil, chopped up dates and apricots and whatever nuts we have handy) straight after school for the walk home.
They’ll probably, mindlessly, quite like it, and it will fill them up pre-dinner on the salad requirements without them even knowing. If you get more into them at dinner, it’s a bonus.
Think raw, think colourful, think unpackaged.
What are the best healthy snacks for kids?
Keep your fruit bowl in the middle of the table, within easy reach of even the smallest, and keep it topped up, seasonal and colourful to reset the idea of what really is a healthy snack for kids.
Restock little and often, try the more outre weekly seasonal offerings from Farmdrop to keep the kids on their toes and to encourage them to try different things.
Use any half-eaten apples and pears for a simple weekly apple cake (and get them to make it).
Always offer a selection of chopped up carrots, peppers, celery and hummus (full of healthy fats and protein) whenever the feel it is snack time - this makes a quick and easy snack for children.
Make a crudité platter part of every evening’s meal - if they eat a bit of that, who cares if they wholeheartedly reject your fish pie/chicken casserole/vegetarian tacos?
Dessert can be a fruit salad and full-fat yoghurt, or slices of toast made with wholegrain and a nut butter.
In-between-meal snacks can be cherry tomatoes, oatcakes and cheddar, prunes and a few almonds, toasted pitta squares or frozen berries.
How can I get my kids involved in healthy eating at home?
Involve the kids in chopping and slicing and stirring and menu planning as much as you can stand to.
It makes a difference to their enthusiasm and they are much more capable than you’d think, and will teach them how to make their own healthy snacks when you aren’t around to supervise.
We hosted a Bonfire Night party for friends this November and our ten-year-old made a pumpkin pie from scratch and the 12-year-old perfected his signature massive Sausage Roll from a now- memorised Jamie Oliver recipe.
A little bit of adult supervision, a lot of trust and all the adoration from hungry family and friends will make firm, life-long chefs out of them yet.
Eat communally as much as you can. Lay your table with various healthy options (fresh Farmdrop-sourced loaves warmed in the oven, a simple salad, free-range roasted chicken) and let the kids serve themselves and eat other.
Keep the TV off during meals (this is a non-negotiable in our house) because it means that everyone pays attention to what is going into their mouths and gives everyone the chance to talk.
How can I start early in teaching my baby or toddler to eat healthy foods?
Try baby-led weaning - give your baby a cucumber stick and let him or her mouth away at it. There is always room for frozen batch cooking or pureed pouches, but nothing sets a child up quite as well as getting familiar and comfortable with fresh, farm-to-plate vegetables and fruits.
And eat well yourself - let everyone in the family see you make good food choices without too much agonising over it.