“Whole food” snacks for kids (and adults!)

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Now that we have established a bunch of stuff you shouldn’t eat anymore, let’s talk a little about what you can eat (and feed your children) when it is snack time. Some typical snacks in a processed food world may include things like Goldfish, Chex Mix, Kix Cereal, Cheerios, and graham crackers. We used to have a “snack basket” with all of that stuff in it too. Here are nine easy things to consider if you want to start making some changes for the better…

  1. First things first, get rid of all the processed stuff. If it is still hanging around in your pantry appearing to be an option your child will surely ask for it. For most of the younger children you can count on “out of sight, out of mind.” If you don’t believe me just try it for a couple of weeks before you call me up to prove me wrong on this. It has worked beautifully with my kids.
  2. Reorganize your pantry; what used to be the snack basket can now be transformed into two or three new baskets/bins:
    • Dried fruit basket to include things like organic mixed dried fruit bits, little boxes of organic raisins, and I even found organic dried “apple rings” at our Harris Teeter that my kids like. There really are a lot of choices when it comes to dried fruit – just read the ingredients and if it has added sugar just make sure that it is minimal.
    • Nut basket to include raw organic cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamias, dry roasted peanuts, etc. Raw nuts do not contain added oil and salt – and yes there is a difference when compared to all the oily canned nuts you will find in the snack aisle.
    • Seeds basket to include raw organic pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  3. Fresh fruit may sound like a limited snack option, but it isn’t so small or boring if you consider the endless choices in this category: bananas, apples, pears, pineapple, mango, watermelon, honey dew melon, cantaloupe, grapes, berries, oranges (not the ones sitting in a can full of sugary juice), peaches, plums, etc. Also, consider applesauce (read the ingredients if you aren’t making it yourself – there should be nothing more than apples and maybe some water) and organic fruit strips that look a little like fruit roll ups (and can be found at Target and some grocery stores).
  4. If you don’t think your child will embrace a lot of the items on the fresh fruit list then it is time to get creative. One morning I tried to feed my youngest child (who is my picky one) some mango and pineapple that she was so opposed to eating that she actually threw it on the floor. Later that day at lunch I offered her the same exact fruit (the pieces that didn’t land on the floor!) on a kabob stick with little pieces of apple mixed in (that I know she likes) and she devoured the whole thing. Cheese would also be a good alternative to mix in with the fruit on the kabob stick if you know they like it. Frilly little toothpicks might get their attention too. Being creative might require a little more effort, but at the same time it can be very rewarding if it actually works.
  5. A few veggie optionscan work well as snacks too:
    • Carrots – try buying the kind with the green stem attached and giving it to them whole. Also consider letting an older child peel the carrot themselves – my 5 year old thinks it is fantastic when I allow her to do this.
    • Celery – we routinely serve “ants on a log” at our house which is celery with peanut butter and raisins on top. I am sure there are a lot of variations that would work so play around with it knowing what your kids like.
    • Cucumber – consider trying this with some homemade ranch or other white salad dressing (recipe to come later).
  6. Again, if you are turning up your nose to this fruit and veggie list because you are sure your child would have no interest, be creative and get them involved. Take them to the grocery store or farmers market and ask them to pick absolutely anything they want to try (in the produce section of course). Offer a reward if that is what it takes for them to try something new. For an older child consider explaining to them in simple terms why it is important for their health to eat fruits and veggies. My 2-yr-old has typically been a very picky eater, but she has surprised me over the last couple of months as we have been going through this transition. I think I am also trying a little harder with her and realizing that after many failed attempts it is starting to pay off.
  7. In the dairy section you can always find good ol’ cheese, hard-boiled eggs and yogurt. Beware though because the flavored yogurts are packed full of refined, processed sugars including High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Read the ingredients or consider buying plain organic yogurt and flavoring it yourself.
  8. It might be a good time for me to mention my new BFF throughout this “whole food” eating adventure….POPCORN!!

    image courtesy www.giantoutfitters.com

    Hooray for popcorn! I was honestly relieved when I realized that a snack as fun as popcorn has been around for an estimated 6,000 years and therefore does not fall into the processed food category. I even splurged one day on a hot air popcorn maker that was on clearance for $25 at Target (pictured). This was one of the best impulse purchases I have ever made. My children (and their friends) LOVE when we use this fun little machine and best of all the popcorn comes out with no oil or salt on it. At first I felt like it needed some seasoning, but after eating it plain a few times we are now used to it and no one even notices that anything is missing. We just have to retrain our taste buds a little and realize we don’t need the excessive use of salt, sweeteners, and oil that the food industry likes to put in most everything.

  9. Some other snack options that require recipes: Triscuits with homemade hummus, powerballs, and homemade granola bars.

Please post a comment if you have any other whole food snack ideas that aren’t included in this list. I would also love to hear from those that actually try some of these suggestions (successful or not)!

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