Some Quick, Easy (and Healthy) Snacks to Share with Your Child
It's sometimes difficult to get children, particularly toddlers, to eat healthy meals. The key seems to be to find some things that you know they like, and get inventive!
The following snacks have been really successful in our household, and are very easy to make.
Some Savoury Snacks
Tuna and Mayonnaise Crunch
Empty 200g of tuna into a bowl and mix with a table spoon of mayonnaise. Add some diced cucumber and sweetcorn and stir well. Your child may enjoy helping with the stirring; he or she might well be more likely to eat something that they've "made" themselves! Serve it fresh with some toast, in a sandwich (or in a pitta pocket - see below).
Pitta Bread Snacks
We find that pitta bread is a great staple food to have in the house. You can fill them with anything your child likes, be it peanut butter, Nutella or Marmite, (or any other weird and wonderful combination of foods!) Like other breads, you have the choice of buying brown or white, and they also come in several different sizes.
For the following pitta pocket recipes I like to use mini pitta breads which are small and circular, and just the right size for little hands to cope with! However, if these are not available where you are, it's just as good to use regular pitta bread cut in half.
Tuna and Cucumber Pitta Pockets
For this snack, you can either prepare some Tuna and Mayonnaise Crunch, as above, or you can mix together some tuna and mayonnaise and add to it any combination of vegetables that you and your child enjoy. The favourite in our house is tuna mayonnaise with sliced up cucumber.
Heat up some pitta bread - I find the easiest way of doing this is just popping it in the toaster! Then partly slice it length-ways to make a pocket, (halving it first if you're using the regular sized breads). Carefully fill the pocket with the tuna/mayo mixture. Simple, easy and tasty!
Cheese and Pickle Pitta Pockets
Cheese and pickle sandwiches are a British favourite. They contain slices of yellow cheese such as cheddar, and chutney (or relish); the most popular of which is Branston Pickle. This particular combination may well be an acquired taste, so any combination of cheese and relish is of course acceptable, so long as you and your child enjoys them!
Mediterranean Pitta Pockets
My mouth waters at the thought of this one! For my daughter I use houmus and cucumber slices in toasted pitta, and for myself I also add sliced pickled cucumber (gherkin), olives and a small amount of diced onion. You could also add combinations of sliced tomatoes, peppers, lettuce (and any other salad item), chilli sauce, tehina, and if you're feeling really Mediterranean, some falafel or shawarma! Vary the ingredients according to your tastes for a really delicious snack.
From a young age, kids seem to like dipping things into other things! You can use any dip that your child likes. Mine likes houmus. She also likes cream cheese. So we slice up pitta or naan bread, chop cucumber and raw carrots into sticks and we dip!
Peppers are also good for slicing and dipping, as is celery, baby sweetcorn and bread sticks.
Try to stick to healthy dips without artificial preservatives or too much salt or sugar. Houmus contains lots of protein as its main ingredient is chickpeas. It is also a good source of iron, vitamin C and dietary fibre. However, shop-bought houmus can be quite high in salt, so you might prefer to try making it yourself. Cream cheese is high in calcium, and there are usually fat-free or low-fat options and several different flavours.
Salad Boats and Rice Cake Faces
Sometimes a child who firmly refuses to eat salad will soon change their minds once it is arranged into pictures or shapes.
It tastes just the same, but it somehow becomes much more attractive if it looks like a boat (for example), or has a face!
To create a salad boat, make some toast and cut it into a boat shape. Cut out some triangles of yellow cheese for the sails. A long slice of cucumber makes a good flag-pole, and a middle slice from a hard boiled egg looks just like the sun! And you can use some lettuce leaves for the rough, green sea! (I've had some trouble thinking of blue salad items!)
For rice cake faces, use a couple of rice cakes, spread with cream cheese, peanut butter, Marmite or any other spread that your little one likes. And for the face, get creative and use different vegetables/fruits/cheeses for the facial features.
You could let your child decide which foods to use; you'll probably be surprised what they come up with!
Some Sweet Snacks
For this sweet and simple snack, you just need some popcorn and some chocolate.
As popcorn is whole-grain, it contains good carbs and dietary fibre, and it has more protein than any other cereal. Granted, adding chocolate to it negates the low-calorie and low-fat advantages of plain popcorn! However, as we know, if you use dark chocolate it has its own health benefits.
You can make the popcorn yourself, by popping some corn kernels in a paper bag in your microwave, or heating in a little oil in a frying pan, (making sure it has a lid!) Or else, you could buy some plain or lightly salted popcorn.
Put the popcorn to one side, and get hold of some of you or your child's favourite chocolate. Break it up if it's not already in small pieces and melt gentlyover a pan of water, or in the microwave.
As for quantities, when we make chocolate popcorn we use around 100g of chocolate (our chocolate of choice is Cadbury's Giant Chocolate Buttons). We slowly stir in a few handfuls of popcorn (this is my daughter's job), until they are nicely coated with chocolate. And we continue to gradually add more popcorn until the chocolate just won't stretch any further!
This quantity makes a generous bowl-full for me and my nearly-three year old, but might vary depending on how chocolaty you want your popcorn! I'm sure you'll have fun experimenting!
Custard Covered Banana
For me, this is the ultimate comfort food, and laughably easy to make. Cut up a banana and pour on some vanilla custard! (Chocolate sprinkles on the top are an optional extra).
For me the combination of banana and custard acts as an instant pick-me-up. This is probably because when you eat a banana you get an instant boost of all sorts of great nutrients, including tryptophan, a protein that relaxes you and makes you feel happy! (I'm not sure what role the custard plays exactly, other than it tastes good with the banana, and probably gives me some energy!)
Peanut Butter Pancakes
Peanut butter is a good source of protein, is high in monounsaturated fats and is also a source of resveratrol, the same antioxident and anti-inflammatory ingredient that is found in red wine! It also contains beneficial amounts of fibre, vitamins E and B3, magnesium and folate. (Beware though that some people may have a serious nut allergy, and that natural brands better preserve the beneficial nutrients and avoid the unhealthy trans-fatty acids found in more highly processed peanut butter).
Pancakes are an special treat in our household, and peanut butter is one of our favourite fillings. We use the English pancake recipe, so that the pancakes are thin enough to roll up.
Remove pancake from the pan and spread lightly with peanut butter. Roll up the pancake and sift a little icing sugar on the top. Chop the rolled pancake into mini-rolls and enjoy while they're still warm.
The warmth of the pancake seems to bring out both the sweet and the savoury flavours in the peanut butter, making this a truly a delicious snack!
Do you have trouble getting your child to eat fresh fruit? Well sometimes it's just more attractive when it's swimming; it's a fact!
Prepare some jelly/jello in small moulds or plastic cups. Put the jelly in the fridge, and once it has cooled (but not set) add some fruit. Plenty of fruits work really well in jelly, including grapes, chopped up apples, bananas and pears, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and mandarin oranges. (But avoid fresh pineapple, kiwi and papaya, which interfere with the setting process). If you're feeling extra creative, you could cut your apples or pears into fish shapes!
Put the fruity jelly mixture back into the fridge, and when it has set, turn each mould upside down onto a plate (and if it doesn't come out easily, then very briefly dip the bottom part of the mould in a bowl of warm water).
Hey presto, your fruit is swimming!
The tuna fish debate
Tuna is rich in all sorts of nutrients; it's high protein, full of minerals such as magnesium, potassium and selenium, vitamins A and D and several B vitamins, as well as omega 3 fatty acids, which help to lower blood pressure and the risk of heart conditions, are beneficial for brain function, and are also said to have positive effects on asthma and arthritis. What's more, tuna is fat-free!
This sounds like the perfect super-food. However, as tuna is known to contain some mercury, there is some debate about what is a safe consumption level for young children. This article shows the latest recommendations of the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some useful links
- Nutrition for Children
Proper nutrition in childhood can reinforce lifelong eating habits that contribute to your children's overall well being and help them to grow up to their full potential and a healthy life.
- BBC Food - Cooking with children
Everything you need to know about cooking with your child. By Annabel Karmel.
- Breakfast - After School Snacks - Lunches for Kids
Are your kids picky eaters? Do you have trouble finding healthy snacks and making satisfying lunches? We've got healthy -- and satisfying -- recipes for before school, after school and lunchtime.