Crack the Snack Code: simple snack ideas for home or on-the-run

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With busy American lifestyles, family snacking seems to be inevitable. When it comes to kids, though, snacking often gets a bad rap, since junk food noshing is linked to childhood obesity. But provided nibbles are healthy, little stomachs actually fare much better with smaller meals throughout the day and snacks in between. This keeps energy levels stable and supports healthy blood sugar balance. And research suggests that snacking during the school day improves both mood and motivation, as well as helping kids concentrate.

The trick is having nutritious options available, which may take more time and energy than opening a package or bag, but it’s well worth it. And the good news is, most kids respond well to wholesome choices when presented in a positive way. Brightly colored, fresh, natural foods appeal to the child in all of us, though some kids─used to a high-salt, sugar-laden grazing menu─may need a bit of time to adjust.

If you want to upgrade your family nibbling but need some inspiration, take heart. Many companies have made healthy snacks a focus, with more whole grain and reduced sugar options available, as well as innovative gluten and dairy-free alternatives. And getting more creative at home is easier than you think. Some simple snack ideas for home or on-the-run that are appealing, tasty, and energizing include:

At Home

  • Fresh vegetable platter with several dipping options. Try kid-friendly dressings like Ranch, Goddess and Honey-Mustard
  • Apple slices with soy cheddar cheese
  • Organic carrot sticks with hummus─try the many variations available
  • Toasted, whole grain bagel with dairy or tofu cream cheese
  • Whole-grain graham crackers and almond butter
  • Natural tortilla or corn chips with bean dip, salsa and/or guacamole
  • Kid “parfaits,” layering soy or dairy yogurt, fresh berries and granola
  • Easy smoothies made with soy, almond or dairy milk, frozen berries and bananas
  • Whole-grain toaster waffles dipped in cinnamon applesauce
  • Mini Pizzas made with whole wheat English muffins or Spelt tortillas drizzled with pizza sauce and topped with soy or dairy cheese, broiled until melted
  • Fresh fruit platter with orange and apple slices, cherries, strawberries or other luscious fruit in season. Let kids sprinkle with cinnamon or dip in vanilla yogurt
  • Peanut-butter filled celery

On the Go

  • Sandwich wedges made with cheddar cheese, cream cheese and cucumber, or peanut butter and banana on whole grain bread
  • Low-sugar cereal squares and honey-roasted peanuts
  • Grapes and soy or dairy cheese cubes
  • Graham cracker and nut butter sandwiches
  • Reduced-sugar juice boxes and trail mix
  • Low-sugar  protein bars
  • Raw almonds and dried cranberries
  • Fresh Pistachios or peanuts in the shell (keeps hands busy too!)
  • Carrots and rice cakes with cashew butter
  • Portable fruit like oranges, bananas and lunch-box apples
  • Whole grain, seeded crackers with Apple Butter
  • Omega-3 rich, nutty energy bars
  • String-cheese and mini-applesauce cups

Once you get accustomed to keeping healthy snack staples available, it’s easier to stay on track. Little palates will adjust to enhanced nutrition, and the whole family will reap the benefits as kids feel more energized and experience improved immune wellness. And you’ll feel better knowing that with higher quality nutrition, better minds and bodies are building─snack by delicious snack.

This article is featured in the Back to School 2009 Whole Value Newsletter by Whole Foods Market.

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