Ready for some new ideas for snacks for your kids? It can be easy to get into a rut, and unfortunately, most of the snacks marketed to kids aren’t the healthiest. In fact, 80% of kids’ snacks and products have added sugar and most have deceptive claims on the packaging. They may say “whole grain” or “made with fruit” or “rich in calcium,” making parents think they are getting something with added nutritional value, whereas many of these are highly processed and full of hidden sugars or sweeteners and other unwanted ingredients such as refined seed oils or artificial colors. These include many brands of granola bars, crackers, chips, yogurts, and fruit snacks.
The sugar in these products adds up fast, and just one or two seemingly healthy products can put kids over their suggested daily limit for added sugar. For example, one granola bar can easily have 12 grams or three teaspoons of added sugar, which is half of the general daily maximum recommended for children ages 2-18. And most kids do not feel as if they have been given dessert if they have a granola bar, but essentially that is what many brands are!
An overly sweet diet can impact children from head to toe and cause risk for many health issues, including those that develop slowly and silently over time, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, systemic inflammation, and eventual cognitive decline. In the short term, kids who have more sugar are more likely to struggle to concentrate and to be moodier and more fatigued. Reducing sugar in daily snacks can make a big difference in children’s overall health.
Easy Snacks to Make at Home
Involving kids in preparing easy snacks is a great way to encourage them to accept new, healthy options. Here are a few ideas:
1. Cucumber slices with Japanese Furikake Seasoning: Washing a cucumber and helping to slice it into rounds is something that even toddlers can assist with. We love to dip cucumber in Japanese Furikake seasoning, which is a mix of seaweed flakes, sesame seeds, and sea salt. Look for a brand that does not have added sugar or MSG in it. Kids love this because it gives the cucumber a great crunch and added flavor.
2. Watermelon Pops: Another very easy idea is to cut a watermelon into rectangular pieces, retaining the rind on to use as a handle, and freeze it on parchment paper into one-ingredient ice pops. While kids may be too young to cut the watermelon safely, they can help arrange it on the parchment for freezing. These are so refreshing and fun to eat on a hot day.
3. No-Bake Chocolate Sesame Squares: For something sweet, that is also plant-based and high fiber, try these treats out. They are full of chocolatey flavor and, in addition to being free from added sugar, they also happen to be gluten-free and dairy-free for anyone with those needs. This is a very easy recipe (here are the full details) where you just put everything in a food processor and then flatten it into a baking dish. Even young kids can help measure the ingredients, add them to the processor, operate it with adult supervision, and help press the mix into the dish.
3. Crispy Chickpea Snacks: These seasoned, roasted chickpeas are flavorful and a great alternative to chips or crackers. They are high in fiber, keep kids satisfied, and are also easy to make and affordable. You can modify the seasonings based on what your family likes. We especially love the garam masala version, and the Italian version with rosemary and oregano is also amazing. Kids can help drain the canned chickpeas, dry them with a dish towel, baste them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with the spices before roasting.
Healthier Options for Snacks You Can Buy
We know that making your own snacks isn’t always possible, and it’s helpful to know which ready-made products you can rely on that use good ingredients and your kids will like.
For non-perishable options, here are some products we like:
- any type of raw or roasted nuts (ideally without refined oils), mini size Lara bars, Skout Kids bars, crackers that are made without refined flours and do not have seed oils such as Mary’s Gone Crackers, Flackers, Wasa Crisp Breads, or Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps.
- Instead of potato chips or popcorn that contains added sugar and/or refined seed oils, try popcorn like Lesser Evil Himalayan Gold or Terra Chips made with plantains and cooked in coconut oil.
- Protein snacks such as New Primal Meat Sticks or Babybel cheese are also convenient and do not contain added sugars.
With these ideas, you can keep up with your children’s snack appetites, involve them in the kitchen, and keep them healthier at the same time.
Dr. Michael Goran, Ph.D. and Dr. Emily Ventura, Ph.D. are co-authors of the pioneering new book, SUGARPROOF: The Hidden Dangers of Sugar That Are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk and What You Can Do (Avery/Penguin Random House). To purchase the book and for more ideas and recipes, check out the website and our Instagram page.