For sedentary middle-aged individuals snacking is not a big deal. We don’t really need the calories. But I have three growing or grown boys that always seem hungry. And I mean always! I am so proud of my boys, though. Yes, they would eat pop-tars, potato chips, and junky granola bars if I bought them. I don’t buy them (except for potato chips — I buy two bags each time I shop as a treat and they are usually gone within 24 hours). They have embraced healthy snacks, and they all absolutely love fruit.
I keep a variety of healthy snack foods in the house. In addition to providing calories sometimes these snack foods are dinner. I am chronically ill, and although my 19 year old does a lot of cooking, sometimes neither of us is up to cooking and we all snack for dinner. My 12 year old made himself a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner last night while I had crackers, cheese and apple slices.
- Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free crackers
- Organic popcorn
- Organic cheese slices
- Organic fruit: apples and oranges are affordable, bananas, grapes and berries when in season
- Nature’s Path granola bars
- Organic cookies: Newman’s Own or homemade
- Veggies: carrot sticks, cucumbers, marinaded salad, fermented veggies
- Organic hummus
- Organic goat cheese and crackers
- Whole grain muffins with butter or cream cheese (apply to frozen halved muffins)
- Organic tortilla chips and salsa (a huge favorite in this family) or guacamole
- Potato chips — Kettle Brand is now non-GMO, as are some Utz varieties
- Yogurt and fruit smoothies
- Yogurt with fruit and raw honey
- Peanut butter and preserves sandwiches or toast (open-faced PB&J)
- Grilled cheese sandwiches (my boys make them in the toaster oven)
- Homemade trail mix: granola, dried fruit, organic chocolate chips, nuts
Avoid low-fat foods which typically contain thickeners and chemicals. Read labels. Buy organic. Read labels. Did I mention that you should read labels? Organic is ideal but not absolutely necessary as long as you avoid genetically-modified foods and limit non-organic foods (they still have pesticides and are grown using chemical fertilizers which are not good for the soil). When reading labels on chips bags look for the non-GMO oils (peanut, sunflower, safflower). Avoid cottonseed, canola, corn, vegetable and soy oils (which are over 90% GMO). Avoid MSG and its hidden sources. I love that Kettle Brand potato chips resourced all of their ingredients and changed their recipes so that their chips are non-GMO. They taste so good and no MSG. If you find non-organic snack foods and see “sugar” this is processed from GMO sugar beets. Non-GMO sugar will say “cane sugar”.
Notice that I don’t list fruit juice above. My personal philosophy is that fruit juice is great for cooking, baking and fermenting (I use it in kombucha and water kefir second ferments) but not for drinking. Fruit should be eaten with the fiber and enzymes. Most fruit juices are pasteurized. I feel the same way about drinking milk. Instead provide your children yogurt, cheese, and other cultured foods. The exception might be if you have access to raw milk.
When I buy cookies I allow the kids to eat one package (between all of us that isn’t very many cookies). The rest I bag up in snack bags for portion control and usually hide them. I have a borderline Asperger’s child and he can eat everything in the house in a few hours. When making school lunches these pre-bagged snacks are handy. When we run out of the more preferred snack foods I even make popcorn in the morning, allow it to cool and bag it up for school lunches.
If you don’t buy the junk your kids will rarely get the junk. Getting a spouse on board might be a challenge. You could ask for 6 months to see how the entire family does on a healthier diet with the stipulation that said spouse may eat what he/she likes but not bring it home. You cannot control your spouse, nor should you desire to. But having a spouse that sabotages all of your hard work will create a lot of conflict in the home. Switching a few foods at a time, substituting uncured meats for cured, buying only organic produce can be a few ways that you make the transition with less conflict. Of course, getting your spouse completely on board is ideal.
I would love to hear your healthy snack ideas!