You’re familiar with the scenario: the kids are home from a long day at school and they’re ravenous. They need food NOW but it’s at least two hours until dinner. Rather than dive into the biscuit tin or stop at the bakery on the way home, why not try these healthy and nutritious snacks – they’ll appease the hungriest of tummies without ruining their appetite.
Cinnamon Apple Chips
“Apple chips are great for balancing blood sugar levels and they help keep sugar cravings at bay too. If you have a toddler who wants sweet snacks these are ideal,” says Brighton-based nutritionist Ruth Reynolds.
They’re a little time-consuming to make but there’s nothing more satisfying when you have a glut of apples. Cinnamon adds a delicious flavour without the need for added sugar. Slice the apples thinly using a knife or Mandoline slicer – around 2mm is good, any thicker and the slices don’t really crisp up. Place in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and sprinkle with a small amount of cinnamon. Bake in a preheated oven – 110C/200F/Gas 1/2 for 90 minutes, turn them over and stick them back in the oven for another 90 minutes.
Houmous & Crudites
Traditionally made from chickpeas, the high protein content in houmous means it’s great for balancing blood sugar levels. While shop-bought houmous is generally made from ‘cheap and cheerful’ sunflower oil, making your own using good-quality extra virgin olive oil – find our Homemade Houmous recipe here – adds anti-inflammatory properties, according to the experts.
“Chickpeas also contain good amounts of both soluble and insoluble fibre, meaning lower cholesterol and a healthier digestion,” says Gillian Day, a lecturer in Nutritional Therapy at The College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM)
Fruit & Veg Kebabs
Struggling to get your kids to eat their five-a-day? Threading bite-sized pieces of fruit and veg onto wooden skewers is a great way to entice them; a small bowl of Greek yoghurt on the side for dipping is a nice addition. Try a rainbow effect – get the kids to choose different-coloured fruit or veg using the Colour Palate Infographic produced by those clever bods at BBC Good Food. We loved it so much we featured it in the Friday Dish.
“The bigger the rainbow, the more nutrients! Very important for the approaching colder weather as the antioxidants and vitamin C in the fruit and vegetables will help ward off coughs and colds,” says Ruth.
Nut Butter on Rice Cakes
OK, so peanut butter and jam sandwiches may not fall under the “healthy snacks” category – in fact the peanut isn’t actually a nut, it’s part of the legume family. However there are some great commercially-produced nut butters on the market – think almond, cashew and hazelnut – that have no added salt or sugar.
“Nuts are packed full of a wide variety of vitamins,” says Ruth. Almond butter is a great source of calcium, potassium and fibre (important for children’s gut health) and vitamin E, which is good for the skin. Cashew nuts contain immune-booster zinc and magnesium, which is crucial for healthy muscles and the brain. “Hazelnuts are packed with vitamin E, magnesium and B vitamins, which are great for energy – not that most children seem short on that!”
Cheese on a Stick
“The calcium content in cheese supports the development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones,” says Ruth. “Cheese also contains zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12 and is high in protein so will keep children feeling fuller for longer. It’s a very convenient and satisfying snack.”
Cheese can be high in saturated fat, however, which is why you need to watch portion sizes carefully. According to the Children’s Food Trust, a daily portion of hard cheese for the under-fives is about 15-20g (grated, that’s about 1-2 tablespoons of cheese). For soft cheese, it’s about 20-25g.
While there are hundreds of things you can do with cheese, why not go retro with this 1970s-inspired snack? Cubes of cheese speared onto cocktail sticks with pieces of apple or pineapple for a lovely salt/sweet combination.
DIY Snack Mix
Pick and mix from a range of low-sugar goodies for a children’s snack that really packs a punch. Mix plain popcorn and pretzels, wholegrain cereal, raw nuts, seeds and dried fruit such as raisins and apricots. Serve in little bowls to keep hunger at bay in a varied and colourful way.
If you do include dried fruit, a word of warning: “Dried fruit is highly concentrated sugar and it sticks to your teeth, especially in children as they don’t tend to work it out with their tongue like an adult. Fruit, especially dried fruit should always be given as a snack with something else, ideally protein, to slow down the release of sugar and avoid a spike in blood sugar levels,” Ruth says.
Just because it’s got muffin in the name doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be too unhealthy. Sweetening cakes with naturally-occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables will help cut back on the amount of processed sugar needed in a recipe. Swapping commercial sweet treats for courgette muffins or Banana Bread for example, can reduce our children’s daily sugar consumption.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flours when baking as many people have challenges processing the gluten contained in standard wheat type flours. Buckwheat flour, for example, is fantastic in pancakes and muffins and is actually related more to the vegetable rhubarb than to a grain,” Gillians says.
We’re linked to: