It’s a question of concern. How do we keep our kids healthy when they’re not under our care? How do we instill in them the values and knowledge we have without forcing it down their throats? Literally! And how do we keep ourselves on track, buying them the food that will serve them, without going down the easy road, when our time is limited?
In this article, Healthy Snack List for Kids, I hope to provide some quick, easy and dare I say even fun ways to provide alternative snacks for your kids to keep them healthy and full of good clean energy, without the sugar highs.
Why it’s important for your kids to eat healthy
Helping your kids to develop good eating habits early on will help them as they go through adolescence and into adulthood. There is evidence to show that how a child eats early on impacts their food preferences in the future. Helping
to project a positive influence on your kids snack options now, will only benefit them as they learn and grow in the future. Weight gain at a young age can cause the body to produce more fat cells. Fat cells are developing in our bodies from the time we are born until early adulthood. Every body is different and some of us experience a rapid growth when we are very young around age two to six, with more reproduction of the cells when we go through puberty, where others do not experience this. Since it is hard to know this exact process, the best we can do as parents is give our kids healthy and nutritious snacks to decrease the chance of them developing more fat cells than they need.
What is even healthy anymore?
The easiest way to think of something healthy is does it grow in the ground or on a tree. If you go to a supermarket, the healthiest options will be on the perimeter of the store – think fruits and vegetables. Although sometimes the arrangement of the aisles doesn’t work with that description. If it’s in a can or box there might be additives that you want to avoid. When possible go organic, and for the least amount of additives. For example if you can buy an organic can of vegetables with only the additive of “sea salt”, you can easily wash those vegetables off through a strainer to get rid of most of the salt.
A bit later in the article I will go over some “offensive” ingredients to avoid when you’re buying packaged items to make it a bit easier for you, because while it’s easy to trust store chains like “Trader Joes” or “Whole Foods”, they still carry products with ingredients that are not good for us. Becoming knowledgeable on the topic is the best thing you can do for yourself and your kids.
Foods to avoid when possible
- Soda – By now we all of heard of the dangers of soda. Beyond just the sugar there are many cancer causing ingredients that we should not be giving to our kids.
- Sweetened Iced Tea – Brands such as Arizona and Snapple add so much sugar to their drinks, that they too are a contributing cause to early onset of diabetes. If you make a tea at home and add something low glycemic like coconut sugar or monk fruit sugar to sweeten that is a much better option, than to buy a store bought one. Also remember to read the servings because that is where they trick you.
- Packaged fruit snacks – Again filled with sugar, and additives. Don’t let the labels like “Natural” fool you. There is nothing required by the FDA for food to be labeled “natural” other than it is somehow derived from something that once was natural. So high fructose corn syrup, which causes belly fat, and is at the top of the list of items to avoid, was derived from corn, therefore the label could say “natural”.
- Boxed Mac & Cheese – Foods like these have been ordered off the shelves in Europe, but in the USA they still allow them. They have tested high in chemicals such as phthalates and should be avoided at all cost.
- Granola Bars – Most granola bars that are bought for kids have a list of offensive ingredients along with high sugar content. But, not all of them are bad. The trick is finding the right ones or making some at home. Just keep in mind every 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar.
- Frozen finger foods – A lot of these foods have been flash fried, which keep the saturated fat content way too high for kids. If this is a must be sure to read the ingredients and find the best option, preferable whole grain breaded, or alternative breading such as almond flour, etc.
- Canned Tuna – worth being careful with this one. Fish that has high levels of mercury can affect the nervous system of young children.
- Chips and Dips – Nowadays there are a lot more nutritious options, from chips made from chickpeas to sauces that have only whole ingredients. But again it takes reading the labels and avoiding the familiar brands.
Ingredients to look out for and avoid
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – drives inflammation and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It has also been said to become toxic in our bodies once eaten.
- Carrageenan – triggers inflammation, gestational ulcers and is bad for your digestive system. In addition it has also been called a relative of MSG, which can trick your brain into thinking you are hungry when you are not.
- Food coloring – Blue #1, #2 could cause chromosomal damage, and brain damage. Citrus Red #2 could cause bladder tumors. Green #3 could cause bladder tumors as well. Red #40 is a big one to look out for. Could cause hyperactivity, chromosomal damage, and lymphomas. Red #3 could cause neurochemical and behavioral effects, chromosomal damage, and thyroid tumors. Yellow #5, #6 has a long list of side effects such as aggression, violent behavior, chromosomal damage, asthma, lymphomas, insomnia, hyperactivity, thyroid tumors, allergies, eczema, hives neurochemical and behavioral effects.
- Xantham Gum – can cause gas and bloating along with flu like system, and is in the same family as carrageenan, but a bit less offensive.
- Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil – associated with trans fat, which raises the bad cholesterol and lowers good. Leads to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
- Maltodextrin – derived from corn, which is usually genetically modified (not organic) and can cause allergic reactions, weight gain, gas, bloating, skin irritations, asthma, cramping and difficulty breathing.
Healthy Snack List
- Trail Mix – as long as there are no nut allergies, a simple trail mix consisting of an array of nuts along with some dried fruit (no sugar added) is a great option.
- Almond Butter/Jelly Sandwich – almond butter or peanut butter, as long as there is nothing added is a great and easy option. For bread Ezekiel bread (sold at Trader Joes) is a good choice, with a jam or jelly with no sugar or fruit juice added. Pay attention to the grams of sugar in a tablespoon and pick the option with the lowest. Another option is to slice up a banana and add a little maple syrup or honey to it, instead of the jam.
- Ants on a log – an all time favorite which can be made with almond butter or peanut butter. Celery, butter of choice, and dried raisins.
- Dried Fruit – Dried mango is a great choice for a sweet treat, but pay attention to the options that add sugar and choose the ones that don’t.
- Homemade chocolate pudding – avocado, maple syrup and cacao or cocoa. Put it in the blender and you have a quick dessert.
- Homemade ice cream – take a few bananas and freeze them. When ready throw in the blender and your own banana ice cream. Quick and easy!
- Homemade Mac & Cheese – elbow pasta (can use a bean pasta), alternative milk of choice such as almond milk, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt and pepper to flavor.
- Raw colored peppers – cutting up a bunch of colorful peppers are a fun and healthy choice. If your child likes to dip it in a dressing you can take some olive oil and apple cider vinegar, add a few spices and mix together as a dressing.
- Peas – frozen organic peas, are a simple and easy treat.
- Apples plain, or dipped in honey – might want to leave the honey for the home snack, as it could get a little messy
- Small finger foods – if you find it hard to get away from “frozen foods” try taking leftovers of chicken and turning them into a treat, dipping into ketchup (check to make sure no high fructose corn syrup in it)
- Homemade granola – many recipes online that use food processed dates, maple syrup, peanut butter or almond butter to hold together the oats and nuts of choice. You don’t even need to cook them.
- Blueberries – High in antioxidants, and kids love eating small things that fit perfectly in their fingers!
Here’s to a healthy future
I know it’s a lot to take in, and there is so much more information out there. Just know tat there is always a way to take anything your child likes, and give them a healthy and more nutritious alternative. What we do today will be what influences them in the future. I hope you found this healthy snack list for kids to be helpful and if you have any questions feel free to post below.