Snacks for Children
Help, they're hungry NOW!
Let's begin with a few words of advice about snacks. Children do get hungry more often than adults. They have smaller stomachs and eat smaller portions at a time, and they are burning off WAY more energy than your typical adult. Therefore, it is wise to keep an eye on the clock and anticipate the snack request. There are two important reasons for this. First you will be ready with an idea (preferably something healthy), and second you can serve the snack before it is so close to meal time that it will spoil their appetite.
Since I try to keep the cost of groceries as low as possible I do not keep pre-packaged snacks on hand. This is good for the grocery budget, but sometimes difficult when you have a host of children looking up at you and begging for a snack.
A few favourites at our house are snack kabobs, apple boats, peanut butter crackers with sprinkles, popcorn, trailmix and anything with cheese.
The snack kabob
Snack kabobs can hold anything you have on hand that your children will enjoy. You can use fruit, cheese, cubes of meat, pickles, marshmallows, bread etc. Sometimes you can introduce a new item along with some favourites and because it is on a stick they will be interested in trying it.
Just a word of caution regarding the kabob sticks, they usually get used as miniature swords, so this may not be the best choice depending on the age of your children. I also try to gather up the sticks as quickly after snack time as possible to avoid having these little 'swords' ferreted away to be used later in 'sword fights'.
Apple boats are a fun snack; delicious, nutritious and easy to make. Within minutes you can assemble an entire flotilla of apple boats.
Simply quarter several apples, cut some cheese into triangles and insert a toothpick through the cheese and into the apple to create a sail.
Typically any snack that can be played with before being eaten is a hit at my house. The boats get sailed around their plate before they get disassembled and eaten.
Peanut butter crackers with sprinkles
This snack was born out of desperation. I needed to feed a troop of hungry children and they looked rather disappointed with the plain soda crackers with a pat of peanut butter, so I shook on a few sprinkles and it became an instant success. Cheery, relatively nutritious and much cheaper than packaged snacks. It was requested on many occasions. The sprinkles can also be substituted with chocolate chips if you are feeling particularly sweet.
When it's too close to a meal
If you missed the best time for serving snack and you have children declaring that they will expire if they don't have a snack instantly, despite the fact that it is only half an hour until mealtime, I have found a few ways to deal with this.
The snack I offer is slightly different than it would have been an hour earlier. I usually make sure it is raw veggies or fruit. I figure it really doesn't matter if they eat a serving or two of fruit and vegetables before their meal. It may not be their first choice, but if you put out a platter of vegetables and fruit and don't allow any other choice, they will nibble on the healthy snack you offer.
Also, it could be a glass of milk. Milk fills a hungry tummy and is better than the empty calories in sugary treats, juice or crackers.
A handful of nuts, sunflower seeds or a slice of cheese can also offer a bit of substance and curb the hunger pains until dinner is served.
Snacks are a challenge in every home. The pre-packaged snacks are expensive, and typically rather unhealthy; therefore, it is best to have a plan and a few staples on hand. In our home these staples include fruit, veggies, cheese, milk, peanut butter, peanuts or trailmix and popping corn.
I have experimented with many things and have served some really strange snacks. Any leftover has the potential of becoming a snack.
Leftover pancakes, dry cereal mixed with a few mini marshmallows, cinnamon toast, mini pitas stuffed with leftover meat or egg salad (a huge favourite), small mashed potato pancakes (not a favourite here), a bit of soup served in a mug, fried potatoes made from leftover boiled potatoes served with ketchup and a sprinkle of salt ... the list goes on.
Serve these 'meal type' foods in small portions, but it is a great way to use up leftovers instead of keeping then in your fridge until you just end up throwing them out.
Remember: Be prepared, have an idea in mind before the snack request is made. Use up leftovers and if it is too close to a meal serve fresh vegetables or fruit.
Don't be afraid to create some strange snacks.