If you’ve got kids, you know keeping them healthy and the fridge stocked is practically a full-time job. There’s no way to continuously monitor how often they are grabbing for junk food, so it’s best to have a bounty of healthy options on hand.
Gone are the days of Gushers “fruit” snacks (what even are those?), cheese-like substances, neon yogurts chock-full of Yellow 5 and Red 40, liters of soda, and prepackaged items with enough preservatives to last them in a bunker through World War XVI.
While kids’ metabolisms are like lightning and their growing bodies are perhaps more resilient than ours, they are just that—growing and developing. We want to feed their bodies and brains with nutrients that will build a strong foundation for them now and in the future. Luckily, we live in an age when the education about and access to healthy foods is a little more available. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Fresh cut fruit with nut butter
It’s much easier to get your little ones to eat fruits or veggies when there is something tasty to dip them in. Sliced apples, pears, or bananas are great with classic peanut butter, but with all the nut butter options out there, try mixing it up with some almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter, or even some tahini swirled with honey. When you’re in a pinch, Justin’s makes single-serving packets of nut butters for kids to grab themselves, or take on the go.
Veggies and hummus
Veggies like carrot sticks, celery, cucumber slices, jicama, and cherry tomatoes are excellent dipped in hummus and often satisfy the need for a savory crunch. These veggies are packed with water, ensuring your kids stay hydrated, to boot.
These super-easy and adorable pouches aren’t just for babies. These delicious blends and purees of fruits and veggies often very stealthily mask the flavor of greens like kale, parsley, and spinach, which are mineral-rich, nutritionally dense, and officially impossible to get your kids to eat otherwise. They pack well in the car for the ride home from school or to practice after, or are simply a great no-mess snack to leave the kitchen with.
With all the flavor and crunch of a regular tortilla chip, Siete’s grain-free option will keep inflammation down in kiddies with some bowel issues. It’s not uncommon for kids to experience a time when going to the bathroom feels intimidating due to a rough experience, and mixing up their grainy carbs with some non-grains is a great way to achieve balance while they get their fill of fiber from the snacks above.
Whether you take the vegan route or go for traditional yogurt, this creamy treat is a great way to get a load of probiotics into your kids’ little guts. If you’re OK with dairy, traditional Greek yogurt is a protein powerhouse as well, keeping kids satisfied and fueled for longer. The fats in either dairy or a coconut-based alternative will help them absorb other nutrients and focus better in school.
Keep an eye on the label when it comes to flavored yogurts—sometimes the sugar levels can be shocking. A foolproof approach to monitoring sugar levels is buying plain yogurt and adding up to a tablespoon of honey for your kids to swirl in.
Popcorn with nutritional yeast
Microwave popcorn has had its day in the limelight, but we think it’s pretty simple to avoid all of the mystery chemicals and engineered flavors and pop our own. You don’t need a fancy popcorn maker, just a deep pot and a lid. Buy plain kernels and pop them in some butter, ghee, healthy fat, or coconut oil. Add a little salt, maybe some pepper, and a generous helping of nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy flavor, smell, and color! Adding a little dill and onion powder gives it a sour cream and onion vibe. A major snack hack.
Nuts are another nutrient superstar and a high-protein snack to nourish growing brains and bodies. Activating them sounds like hard work, but most of the time involved is spent forgetting about them. Soak nuts like pecans, Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews overnight, and dehydrate them in the morning.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, no sweat. Eight hours in the oven on its lowest setting on a sheet pan lined with parchment does the trick. The nuts don’t lose any of their nutrients, just their potentially harmful (for teeth and gut) phytic acid. They actually become more nutritionally available and have a slightly airy, toasty crunch that will have your kids addicted … and maybe you, too.