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

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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Comments

  1. |

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  2. joy |

    thanks for the great ideas! my daughter just started preschool in september, and the parents take turns bringing a snack each day. the list of approved foods is horrifying! it’s filled with processed junk like scooby snacks, fruit gushers, and cocoa pebbles! and even worse– when i brought apple slices, banana halves, raisin boxes, sugar free applesauce cups, the kids refused to eat them because they don’t like fruit! what kid doesn’t like fruit? i’ve been very upset and sad for these kids. i’ll try some of your fun ideas next time i’m the snack mom. :)

  3. |

    My favorite snack is popcorn, popped in coconut oil….but sometimes I need to switch it up to another salty snack. I used to love those “Super Pretzels” that you can buy in the freezer section at the grocery store…but something tells me those aren’t the best choice. I made some fantastic whole wheat soft pretzels last week. They were great! http://chattavore.com/2012/03/22/whole-wheat-soft-pretzel-heaven/ This recipe contains barley malt syrup, which wouldn’t be considered a “real food” sweetener, but you could certainly sub in honey or maple syrup!

  4. Netta |

    Here’s another idea for the freshly sliced cucumbers. Squeeze the juice from half a lime over the slices of a whole cucumber and sprinkle just a tad of salt and you get “pepinos”, a mexican-style snack that my little boys adore. You can also add some hot sauce on top of this is you are feeling extra adventurous…a Tapatio type sauce is best. Plain lime juice and salt is the way I prefer it though!

  5. Tracy M. |

    I have a question that is not so much about what to eat for snacks, but about how much and how often my (almost) 4-year old daughter should be eating snacks. Now, I’m not asking in terms of weight control or anything like that, I just want to know if there are others out there who have kids that are CONSTANTLY eating, like mine :) I feed her real food but it seems like I cannot go twenty minutes without her asking me to fix her a new item to eat. For posterity, I wrote down everything she has eaten today (it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon) and it has been no less than 13 different individual food items (all good stuff like hummus/carrot sandwitch, fresh fruit, pb&j,ham slices, green smoothie, crackers & cream cheese, etc.) Of course, she rarely finishes any one portion, hence the continuing ‘hunger’. The days she’s at preschool (2x/week, half-days)she eats breakfast before she goes, one snack at school and lunch, and she seems to be fine. But when she’s home, she just takes one look at me and thinks “I’m hungry!”. Do any of you stay-at-home moms, or dads have a similar experience? I know people eat when they’re bored, but we’re always pretty engaged, doing art projects, playing outside, or visiting with friends most days. I feel like I’m at my wits end and am looking for a solution. Perhaps I should just be more strict in making her eat the full portion of the things I make? It should be enough for her to eat breakfast, one morning snack, lunch, one afternoon snack, and dinner, right??!!

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

      Hi Tracy. My only suggestion would be that if she doesn’t finish a meal, you save it for her and when she comes back and says she’s hungry again, that’s what she is offered. If she is truly hungry, she will eat it. And, then, I would just limit the snacks and set expectations for her. I’m not sure if you’ve spoken to her doctor as well, but, you could consider that too. Good luck. Jill

  6. tracey |

    seriously? you listed triscuits-processed crackers-sorry that should not be on your real food snack list. Make them yourself or use an apple slice with cheese or a carrot dipped in a bean goat cheese dip made in 2 seconds in a food processor.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

      Hi Tracey. The list is meant to serve as some suggestions. For us, they fall within the “5 ingredients or less” rule. But, you can simply choose not to include them in your own snack list if they don’t work for you. Jill

    • Adajia |

      That sounds really yummy.

  7. Adajia |

    This website is AMAZING! It is really helping me to maintain a better diet.

  8. Lauren |

    Lisa – Do you have Real Food snack suggestions for babies? My daughter is 9 months old and I can’t find anything store bought that isn’t highly processed (Organic or not). Her daycare keeps asking to give her Puffs, which I am firmly against, but I can’t find any other options.

  9. vc |

    I love air popped popcorn! It is a staple in any house that needs non processed snacks. And just because alot of popcorn has fake butter and salt, that dose’nt mean popcorn is bad for you!

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