In my 2nd installment of Healthy School Lunches, I wanted to talk about snacks. Most schools require that you send your child either one or two snacks, depending on the daily schedule. This is food that is going to keep them fueled between meals so it is very important to make sure you are thinking about what you send. Something too sugary and the kid is going to crash from that sugar rush. Not enough and they are going to be starving by lunch. What is a good healthy, hearty snack then?
Well, I can definitely tell you what is not. Pre-packaged snacks & refined sugar.
Pretty much anything that contains refined sugar is bad. Snack cakes, “fruit” gummies, rice crispy treats, granola bars, cookies and some other varieties of baked goods… EVEN if you bake them yourself. Things that come in a package, even with their labels promising health benefits or “sugar free” are bad.
I know, I know. That sucks so much. These are convenience foods. Easy to throw in. You think you’re giving your kid a “treat” but honestly, you are just going to cause more issues for your child and of course your teacher when they have to deal with the effects of these foods.
Some of these may even seem obvious but when I volunteered in my son’s class last year, it was amazing the number of kids who brought those packaged half-moon or caramel cakes (you know the ones I’m talking about).
So what to send? Well, baked goods are not all bad if you are careful what you put in them. As a bonus, you can make several weeks worth ahead of time and freeze them individually for convenience. Just make sure you are watching what you put in. Using ingredients like oats and berries are a great start and instead of sugar, try using pure organic honey or maple syrup. There are some fantastic muffin recipes on the internet and you can even squeeze in some veggies which the kids won’t even notice.
Or if your child prefers a savory treat, why not try mini-quiche cups? You can make them in muffin tins ahead of time and they are a great filling treat. Add spinach, ham, broccoli, cheese. Hearty and delicious!
In addition, an apple will go a long way. If they like it chopped, you can pre-chop it the night before and then rub lemon juice on it so it won’t go brown. I suggest using a sweeter apple such as a red delicious, so the sour of the lemon won’t be too harsh. Remember though, as I said about juice yesterday, leave the peel on the apple, that’s where a lot of the nutrients are hiding out.
Cheese Please!! Not the fake stuff, not the string stuff. I’m talking good ‘ol hard cheese. Slice it up, you can even cut them into fun shapes. A favourite snack in my house is a combo of either apple slices & cheese or cucumber slices and cheese. The kids will eat them together like crackers!
Then of course, there are some more traditional choices such as veggies & dip or fruit salad. However, stay away from the convenience items at the store. Make a dip from scratch using Greek yogurt. Ever compared the taste between the pre-cut mini-carrots and real carrot sticks you cut yourself? Not even close! For a fruit salad, you can basically just go through your fruit stash and make it out of anything!! This is a snack I will make when some of the fruit in our house is starting to get very ripe. It’s softer and makes a great fruit salad. Banana’s, grapes, strawberries, pears… kids love it because they can use their fingers too (just remember to send a napkin). 🙂 Stay far away from those fruit salads in liquid on the store shelf. Even the ones that claim “in water” are not even comparable to what you can do with fresh fruit from your home.
Speaking of yogurt (what kid doesn’t love yogurt), my last piece of advice is to stay away from flavoured yogurt or those fruit on the bottom type yogurt cups. Instead, opt for Greek Yogurt and then add your own flavour. Fresh blueberries and a little pure maple syrup, stir it all together and it’s a very yummy and healthy addition to their snack.
Do you have any great snack ideas? Would love to hear them!!