I’ve been on a gradual journey to improve my family’s health. One of the biggest challenges has been trying to balance our busy schedules with healthy food choices. A packaged bag of cheese crackers is easier to grab on the run than fresh fruit or veggies that have to be washed and perhaps sliced. Convenience often trumps nutrition. Today I’m sharing some kid friendly clean eating snack ideas to help make healthy eating easier for your family.
Like most other things in life, the “tricks” are planning and consistency. If you plan ahead, choosing a healthy snack can be just as convenient as a processed snack. And if you buy and prep consistently, it will get easier over time and your kids will grow accustomed to making healthy choices.
Why the right snacks are important
Adults are not the only ones who benefit from a clean eating diet. In fact, I hate referring to it as a “diet.” Really, clean eating is a lifestyle. And this lifestyle is just plain healthy.
Clean eating results in a healthy weight. It also prevents overeating. By eliminating processed food, our bodies’ natural trigger to stop eating isn’t suppressed. Rather than feeling hungry all the time, craving foods that aren’t good for us, we feel satisfied after a healthy meal.
Plus, processed food often makes people irritable, sluggish, and bloated. When you eat clean, you simply feel better. You (and your children) will be more energetic, and likely, more optimistic.
What to keep on hand
Once you get the hang of clean eating you’ll know what to keep on hand that your kids like. Until that time comes – here is a list of snacks that are great to keep in the cupboards and in the fridge.
Fruits have so many benefits packed into them. Some of them are even considered superfoods like blueberries and have antioxidants in them.
Use what is in season and pick a variety to last throughout the week.
These are some of my kids’ favorite fruits.
Like fruits vegetables are pack with nutrients and vitamins that they will get. These are essential to getting their body to work at its best.
Our favorites are:
- Bell Peppers (Red, Yellow, Orange, Green)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap Peas
Kids love to dip their snacks! There are plenty of dips that are out there that are consistent with a clean eating lifestyle. If you use store bought dips, opt for those that are made with all natural ingredients.
- Bean Dip
- Nut Butters (Almond, Peanut, Cashew)
Whether or not to consume dairy on a clean eating diet is a hotly debated topic. In my definition of clean eating, I avoid processed foods as much as possible. So, we still consume milk but we opt for whole milk since in order to reduce fat (e.g. skim milk or 2%), chemicals and artificial ingredients have to be used to replace the fat. If you want to include diary in your diet, opt for products that are organic and free of additives. Cow’s milk does cause bloating though, so you may want to limit these products.
We still include these dairy snacks in our diet:
- String Cheese
- Cottage Cheese
- Hard Boiled Eggs
Nuts have healthy fat that your kids need. Most children love nuts and they can be any type that you want – walnuts, Brazilian nuts, cashews, pistachios and almonds. Make sure they are not getting more than a serving though.
What to Use to Make Prepping Easier
When you begin to prep your children’s weekly snacks, you’ll need to get your supplies ready. So what exactly are you going to need to make this easier?
You’ll want to buy both containers as well as zip lock baggies. Not only that, but you’ll want a variety of sizes. For snacks it is mostly the smaller sizes, but you should keep other sizes on hand just in case you need them while you’re prepping.
Containers you’ll want to take a look at are:
Plastic Containers with Lids
Find small individual containers with lids. These will be easy to grab after school and have a snack ready to go. It will also be convenient for school lunches. I love color coding, so I opted for this set that is BPA free and freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe (not to mention 100% leak proof!):
You’ll also need some pint size ones for foods that are okay to add more than one (e.g. boiled eggs). These are the ones I use (leak proof, microwave safe, dishwasher safe, and BPA free).
The Pyrex small containers with lids work really well for individual snacks. They fit the right amount of berries inside and since it is glass they will stay fresh longer.
I, however, already had a set of these glass prep bowls, so it’s what we use.
When those eventually break, I’m replacing them with this set though because: 1) I love color coding and 2) the square shape works better in our lunch boxes.
Surprisingly Mason jars are a great way to prep and store your snacks. They stay fresh much longer than other containers and they have a tighter seal. You’d be surprised by how much time they can stay in the fridge.
You’ll want to look at several different sizes. The pint jars work for snacks, but you’ll want quart jars if you’re interested in putting jar salads in the refrigerator for the kids.
Sometimes your kids will want more than a snack. Providing a few salads will be a great alternative. Just make sure that you layer the salad correctly otherwise it will get soggy and your kids won’t eat it.
How to Prep Weekly Snacks
Now that you’ve got an idea of what snacks you can give your kids you’re going to make a weekly plan for snacks. Include what the snack will be and approximately how many you’ll think you need…then add some more!
Snacks seem to go quickly and you can never have too many. Get your kids involved. See what they want during the week. Also, have them help prep once you’ve done your shopping.
After you’ve made your list you’ll need to go shopping. Remember that by buying in large quantities you’ll save money. Costco and Sam’s Club will help if you live by one of those.
You can also go to local farmer’s markets or produce stands. A lot of time they will sell in bulk.
When you get back from grocery shopping, you’ll want to prep everything for the week head. There are tips and techniques that you can use in order to make the process go quicker.
Here are some tips to remember:
Rinse and completely air dry the berries so that they do not get mushy inside the containers. If you don’t, then the moisture will make them go bad faster. Also you can place a folded paper towel on bottom of the glass jar.
They have a tool that you can use that will core and slice the apple in one motion. It is called an apple wedge cutter. My kids like it because it’s so easy to use and lets them slice up an apple in the fraction of the time it takes to do it with a knife.
With apples you’ll need to soak them in lemon water to keep them fresh. The ratio to soak is 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of water.
This lets you pre-cut apple slices without worrying about them turning brown. A lot of kids won’t eat brown colored apples, so to save on the hassle of cutting that part off use this lemon water combo.
For fruits you’ll want to cut and cube all fruits and place them in containers. These are best if you use either the plastic or glass containers. This depends on what type of fruit it is.
Fruit will get squishy if you put it in Ziploc bags.
Make sure the pieces are not too big and can either be picked up by a fork or by the fingers and be eaten without choking. The size of the cut fruit will depend on what your child can handle and what they like.
Most vegetables can be put in a baggie. You’ll be able to slice these into strips for the most part. Once they are sliced, just add them to a bag. Use a separate container for dips.
Or, you can place both the veggies and the dip in a single container if you place the dip on the bottom. Celery with nut butter is one example. Using a small mason jar, put the nut butter on the bottom with the celery standing upright. This lets your kids dip the celery easily without getting nut butter all over their fingers.
With dips you’ll either include them in with whatever you are going to be pairing them with like the example above or you’ll be putting them in their own jars.
One great example for a snack would be cucumbers and a mixed jar of salsa and guacamole. You’ll cut up the cucumbers and put them in a plastic bag. In a jar you’ll add salsa on one side and guacamole on the other.
Then your children would grab both and sit down to their snack.
Homemade Protein Bars & Bites
Protein will help keep your child fuller longer and protein bars or bites are easy to make. There are several ways to make these, but they can either be stored in the freezer in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.
Boiled eggs are also a good protein source. You’ll either use a small plastic container that can easily fit two inside or a plastic bag. These are good to grab and go.
You can either make your own and store them in individual small containers with a lid or you could purchase these made. When purchasing make sure that they do not have more than five ingredients and that they are organic.
There are other pre-made snacks that you can purchase for snacks. You can find guacamole, peanut butter, yogurt, string cheese, apple slices and salsa. All of these are already pre-made and packaged.
When you go this route, make sure that they follow the principles of eating clean. But more and more companies are making products that make it convenient for parents to add them as snacks.
Prepping is the key to staying on track with a clean eating diet. Once you have the right tools and work the prep into your schedule, it gets much easier for everyone in the family to make healthy choices.