Monday, June 01, 2015

Family Snacking Made Easy

by Arja Pennanen Lytle

Kids can eat a lot of food. On top of their regular meals, many (like my own son) also eat numerous snacks throughout the day without spoiling their appetites for other main meals.  If your child fits this description it’s important to make sure that the snacks you’re feeding them aren’t just junky filler. Reaching for a packaged granola bar may be easy, but it’s also likely loaded with sugar, along with a few other ingredients that should be avoided. Snacks don’t have to be elaborate in either ingredients or planning, but they do need to be balanced in order to do their job.

Kids tend to be very active, which burns a lot of calories. You’ve probably noticed that after a bike ride or a good play at the park your kiddo is immediately hungry. Add in things like extra curricular activities and you’re definitely going to need to have some nutritious fuel on hand to keep them going. 

While the ultimate goal of snacking is to satisfy hunger and sustain us until our next meal, filling your belly with any random food won’t get you far. If what you feed your child is loaded with sugar or refined carbohydrates with nothing to slow down the uptake of sugar into their bloodstream, their blood sugar will spike and eventually come crashing back down, leaving them irritable, foggy, and hungry all over again. You’d be surprised at all the areas where sugar is hiding though, so don’t let that seemingly healthy yogurt or granola bar fool you. 

What makes a healthy snack?  

You should treat your snacks as miniature versions of your larger meals and aim to have a little protein, a little fat, and some healthy complex carbohydrates (which don’t have to be grain-based!)  Eating this way helps keep blood sugar levels stable, fills you up, and keeps you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time.

Consider some of these options if you’re looking for inspiration:

- Brown rice cake with unsweetened almond butter (or any other nut butter); you can also top these with things like hemp hearts, cacao nibs, or even sliced apple or banana!

- Berries are a great fruit to add to any snack because they’re sweet tasting, full of fibre and antioxidants, but have a very low glycemic index (won’t spike blood sugar levels).

- Veggies and dip (feel free to think outside the hummus box here and use other beans, or come up with tangy yogurt or kefir based dip with herbs); I’m particularly fond of carrots, sugar snap peas, and peppers.

- Apple or banana with a tbsp. of nut butter (another personal fave!)

- Yoghurt (dairy, or non-dairy like coconut yoghurt or almond yoghurt) with fruit, hemp seeds, or other desired toppings; try packing toppings separately and add them after if taking to school or work.

- Homemade whole grain muffins.

- Boiled eggs with fruit or veg.

- Cooked edamame (soybeans) either in the shell or out, with some fruit.

- Kale chips, toasted seeds, and fruit.

- Popcorn (skip the microwave and pop your kernels on the stove with coconut oil!), fruit or veg.

I’ve used all kinds of variations of these snacks both at home and on the go (many work well as school snacks) and most don’t take a lot of effort.  There are some great recipes online for things like energy balls and granola bars too and I find them very easy to make and store at home.

Make sure nobody in the family is going longer than 3 hours without eating whenever possible to keep blood sugar levels stable, and with a little advance preparation you’ll find it takes little effort to have easy snacks on hand for either at home or to grab and go. 

Learn more about Arja of  Balance Body and Soul!
"I'm a holistic nutritionist & mama to a busy kindergartner with a passion for teaching people how to eat to feel good!  I love to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally more balanced by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel your best.  I use whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people correct imbalances and achieve their health and wellness goals."