Sunday, June 30, 2013

10:10 PM
Snack Time!
Prior to having kids, I never really thought about snacks, or the hallowed snack-time. Sure, I ate often, but it was something grabbed on the go, noshed in passing, and often spilled on my computer keyboard. It certainly was never the stop everything and sit down for a little picnic that snack time has become at least twice a day for us now. It turns out that I actually really like snack time. You get to munch on just a little something, usually quite an eclectic spread because you never know who is going to be in the mood for what, and it typically has less pressure associated with it than other meal times (i.e., you as kids don't need to be sitting at the table, we as parents are not trying to ensure that you eat enough that you won't wake up hungry in the night and disturb our precious sleep, etc).

As on-the-go parents, finding nutritious and tasty snacks and meals that the kids also love can sometimes be a challenge. To help get some creative juices flowing if you are in the doldrums in terms of finding the next perfect snack (i.e., maybe just coming to terms with the depressing realization that your kids cannot survive solely on Plum Organics snack pouches) I queried a range of folks about how and what they feed their kids. My main take away from what they are all doing is - try to keep it as healthy and non-processed as possible, organic when you can, and allow the occasional treat. Life is too short to not share an ice cream cone on a summer day :)

The Climber
As a rule, we don't keep any sugar in the house, but do eat our weight in fruit and yogurt. We love tofu for protein and add vanilla chai vega protein mix to our smoothies.

- Rice milk, banana, raw almond butter, kale smoothie
- Tempeh cut in little pieces shortly marinated in tamari and sauteed in a frying pan
- Steamed broccoli with tamari
- Quinoa elbows (like pasta but no gluten) topped with some pesto or parmesan cheese
- Yogurt 
- Fruit

- Small amount of emergen-C or Santa Cruz juices watered down.

- Luna bars (vanilla flavor has the least amount of sugar).
- Occasional handful of jelly beans.

The Ex-Pat
So in Europe, parents are not so anti-sugar, anti-juice, anti-treat, etc.  We pretty much follow a non-processed rule, though even that has a few exceptions.  Our general rules are if it is dairy, meat or berry, it has got to be organic.  No meat outside the house where I cannot be sure it is not organic.  And super fresh, nothing out of a can and the closer to its natural source the better.

We are hugely on the go, so for us, snacks have to be quick and easy. Our go-to snacks are therefore simple simple simple.  Depending on how hungry and close to dinner we are, we tend to go:
- High-fat: handfuls of nuts or granola bars (homemade ideal, but we get some from the health food store too) or our sunflower rye organic bread toasted with cream cheese and jam or sliced Gouda; or
- Fresh: all the fruit we can, but especially fresh carrot sticks, apples, berries, and bananas 

- We pretty much let them have juice when they want, though mixed with mineral water  

- Brown bread smeared with nutella 
- Feshly popped popcorn sprinkled with sugar
- Ice cream
The Professional
My general approach with the kids has been to try to always offer vegetable snacks first. We stick to pretty simple stuff like bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots and cherry tomatoes. I try to use vegetables as a "gateway" to other snacks - e.g., if you want a cracker, you need to eat a bell pepper first. This works sometimes and fails other times, as with most of my parenting tricks :) I also tell kids that vegetables are "anytime snacks" meaning that I'll let them have a carrot, for example, anytime they want it (of course my daughter tested me on this once by asking for a carrot when I was tucking her into bed one night...)

When we go out on weekends I pack a bunch of veggies and fruits and whole grain crackers and cheese and lunch meat - usually this becomes our lunch when we are out and about. I always try to have some cashews or peanut butter on hand as well for the non-dairy protein source.

My general healthy eating tips for parents (when they ask me for advice) are:

- Watch out for sugar. Generally if one item/serving of something  has more than 12-15g of sugar and it's not dairy or fruit-based, I try to avoid letting kids have it on a regular basis.

- Vegetables first, and always on the plate. We make our kids take everything on their plate even if they don't eat it. I believe the more they see and are exposed to veggies, the more they will grow interested and accustomed to eating them.

- Never make food a battle. This doesn't mean give in to everything kids want, but we try to avoid making food a power struggle. I want our kids to have a healthy relationship with food and want them to enjoy and appreciate good food as a family and cultural experience.

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  1. This is a great post! I love the variety and practical advice!