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Healthy Snacks for Kids They Can Make Themselves
Let the Kids Help--Then They'll Eat It!
How frustrating is it for parents to work hard at preparing meals or snacks. only to have the kids turn up their noses at the results? We've all been there. I've found over the years with both kids and grand-kids that if the youngsters are involved, and have the option of putting the combinations together themselves, there will be far fewer battles over actually eating the meal or snack.
I will grant you, that some of the following ideas do get a bit messy, with little fingers involved, so are best confined to at home and in the kitchen only. But, in addition to being healthy, they are fun. Kids will eat the darnedest things, and sometimes surprise you with what they will choose on their own.
There have been studies done with groups of children, showing that, given a buffet of all kinds of food, including junk, the majority will, of course, start out binging on the junk, but after a few days, tire of it, and their own bodies actually direct them to healthier choices of real food.
With younger children, there is a fair amount of pre-slicing, dicing, dishing out, etc. that the adults will have to do, but as the kids age, they can help more and more, until by the time they are 8 or 10, they will be fairly well able to host their own snack time "party" with their friends.
Pre-Load the Choices
The trick to this, is for you, as the parent (or grandparent) to pre-load the selections with a slant toward healthy choices. Set out an array of ingredients on plates and bowls, and those are the things from which the kids may choose.
It will make quite a few extra dishes, but the thing is, appearances count. And we all know kids like to see a bountiful display. So, instead of putting cheese sticks and pretzels, for example, on the same plate, give each item its own dish, so the little ones' eyes are awed by the "massive selection."
The younger they are, the better this works. I recall an aunt of mine giving her grandchildren $2.00 each for Christmas one year. The kids were about 4 or 5 years old at the time. Paper money would not have meant much to them, so she gave them $2.00 worth of nickels. The awe they showed with eyes as big as the moon was worth the little extra effort, as they exclaimed, "Ooooohhh!!! We're rich!"
Let Them Mix What They Want
With the choices pre-selected, it is now up to the adult(s) to simply sit back and watch the fun. Please stifle any urge to discourage any particular combination with exclamations of disgust. That will defeat the purpose.
So what if they choose a pickle stuffed with a raisin? They may not like it; they may eat it anyway, so as not to lose face with the other kids. Oh, did I mention this works best with a small group of kids, whether siblings or friends?
When I was a child, I recall hollowing out a dill pickle and using it as a drinking vessel for a sip or two of ginger ale. Did I like it? No. It was a terrible idea. Was I going to let on? Not on your life. I put on an Oscar-winning performance of how delicious it was.
Suggested Food Choices
This listing is but a starting point of things that have worked for me. You can use all or some and add your own. How many offerings depends on the size and age of the group.
Within reason (no food fights, please), allow them to play. This is an occasion to be allowed to play with their food, which further encourages eating their creations...pitted olives stuck on each finger, for example.
Use this as a special event every so often. The memories of this will stay with them, and as they grow older, they'll unconsciously head for healthy snacks more of the time.
Assorted types of cheese, sliced or in sticks
Pre-sliced whole-grain bread "fingers"
Wet, Juicy, or Drippy Foods
Oat cereal rounds
Pomegranates (to avoid mess, pre-seed them yourself, and provide the juicy kernels in a small bowl--they do have a very small center seed, so best for older children that know to spit them out.)
Add Your Own Healthy Options
You get the idea. All of these items contain protein, vitamins and minerals on some level. Fat is minimal, mostly found in the cheese, peanut butter and olives, so you can limit those items.
Here are some of the creations that have been around for a long time using some of these ingredients. Some come from Girl Scout camp, others are fairly widely known, and a couple, my own kids made up.
Ants on A Log
Celery stick, filled in with choice of spreadable cheese or peanut butter, and topped with raisins along the length.
Cabbage and Peanut Butter "Hors d'Oeurves"
Simply spread peanut butter on the cabbage leaf, roll up and eat. As disgusting as it initially sounds, it's not bad. Raw cabbage has a much milder flavor than when it's cooked, so it becomes merely something crunchy to hold the peanut butter--that's the main flavor you get.
A pair of grapes speared onto each end of a pretzel stick.
This is a very literal cheese sandwich--any three varieties of cheese stacked up and eaten without bread or crackers.
Sliced pickles alternated with cheese slices.
© 2012 Liz Elias