As a parent it can be a minefield, trying to find a snack that will keep your little ones happy that’s not full of sugar, salt or scary ingredients. Companies are always pushing products that they claim are great for kids but when you look at the ingredients, half of the things in there look like they’ve come out of a grad-school textbook!
Here’s five easy snack ideas that your preschoolers will (probably) love. I say probably because every child is different and what one little person loves, another will hate. 🙂
Healthy snack #1 : Popcorn
A while back we bought an air popper to make popcorn. It was super cheap but it’s been worth its weight in… well, popcorn. Our kids love making it when we use our air popper and they love the crunchy texture when they’re eating it. 🙂
The kids love pouring the corn kernels into the top and watching them spin around and they get really exciting once things start popping!
So that you know exactly what’s in your popcorn, I recommend you make your own rather than buying it. It’s MUCH cheaper that way too (I estimate that it’s at least five times cheaper).
Using an air popper
Plug it in and turn it on and pour about half a cup of corn kernels in there. Don’t forget to put the lid / cap back on the popper and then wait for them to pop. Make sure you have a bowl in front of the popper to catch the popcorn as it comes out.
On the stove
You don’t need an air-popper to make popcorn, of course. Just heat some oil in a pan that has a lid and when it’s hot. drop ONE kernel in there. If it pops, pour half a cup of corn kernels in there and put the lid on (unless you want popcorn all over your kitchen). The trouble with the pan method is you can’t involve your little ones as much because of the stove and hot oil.
Very small children can choke on popcorn due to its size. It’s probably better to wait until your little ones are over 12 months before giving them popcorn.
Why it’s healthy
Popcorn is a wholegrain snack that is relatively high in fibre, low in fat, and recent research suggests it’s high in antioxidants too.
Healthy snack #2 : Cheese
We often give our kids cheese as a snack, and by cheese, I mean hard cheeses such as cheddar or double gloucester.
Cheese is relatively cheap, especially when compared to its nutritional value as a snack.
Making cheese fun
We avoid processed cheeses like those marketed at kids (e.g. String Cheese). We just buy a big block of mild cheddar, slice it thinly and use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
You might not need to do this at all – one of our girls is quite happy to swipe a finger of cheese off my plate when she thinks I’m not looking!
For smaller children, it’s important that you cut it into small enough pieces that they can’t choke on it. For very young children this is about the size of the nail on your little finger.
Why it’s healthy
Served in moderation, cheese is an excellent snack that contributes towards a growing child’s need for calcium, protein and a surprising range of minerals and vitamins. Because of the fat content you’ll want to be careful about how much cheese you give your child in a day.
Healthy Snack #3 : Grapes & Blueberries
Fruit as a snack is going to be subjective, I’m afraid.
One of my girls won’t touch fruit but her younger sister can’t get enough of it.
Little people that do like fruit will love the juicy, sweetness of grapes, the bright colors and the squidgyness when they eat them.
Grapes are unfortunately just the right size for infants to choke on. Make sure you quarter them length-ways for smaller children and half them length-ways for older preschoolers.
Why they’re healthy
Full of healthy vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre, they’re an ideal addition to your children’s diet.
Grapes are quite high in sugar but ten grapes a day isn’t going to be a concern as part of a healthy diet.
Healthy Snack #4 : Sliced veggies
Like fruit, getting your children to accept this one will depend upon the child but it’s worth a try. Some specialists recommend that you keep offering your children healthy snacks like vegatables as over time, they may try them and enjoy them.
One of our girls particularly enjoys sliced steamed carrots, baby sweetcorn, thin slices of bell peppers and petis pois.
Steaming carrots is easy in the microwave. Peel the carrot, chop it into sticks and put it in a cup with two teaspoons of water in the bottom. Microwave for two minutes, or until it’s as soft as you’d like.
Baby sweetcorn only takes between 30 seconds and a minute in the microwave, again with some water in the bottom of the cup to prevent it drying out.
If you use the microwave, make sure the veggies have cooled down before serving.
For very small children, remember the choking risk and make sure they pieces are no bigger than your pinky nail.
Why they’re healthy
Vegetables have always been associated with healthy food due to their high vitamin, anti-oxidant and fibre content. Because most vegetables are low in sugar, there isn’t really any limitation on how much you can give your kids too.
Healthy Snack #5 : Easy Fruit Smoothies
This one is our secret weapon. As I mentioned earlier, one of our girls won’t touch fruit or vegetables but she absolutely loves drinking a smoothie. We’re over the moon to find a way to sneak fruit and vegetables in her diet. 🙂
All you need is a blender and some fruit, vegetables, and leaves. You should always add some liquid as a base to enable the blender to chop up the solid fruit. The blender you use doesn’t have to be expensive, either. The one we use was one of the cheapest available and it does the job just fine.
Here’s some ideas that we’ve found to be popular, even with the fruit and veg hating little lady:
- 1 cup of apple juice, 1 banana, 1 pear (peeled or not, your choice), 1 apricot (stone removed), 5 grapes. Blend until smooth.
- 1.5 cups of milk, 2 really ripe bananas, a tea-spoon of natural vanilla essence (optional). Blend until smooth.
- 1 cup of apple juice, 1 pear, 1 apple, a handful of spinach leaves. Blend until there’s no sign of the spinach leaves. 🙂
- 1 cup of orange juice, 1 apricot (stone removed), 1 juicy pear, 5 grapes, 1 cup of cooked and cooled broccoli.
- 1 cup of orange juice, 5 grapes, a mango, 1 large banana
If you’re not used to using cups as a measure, just use about 250ml of the item instead.
Besides being careful not to use any ingredients that your children are allergic to, I can’t think of any safety risks with a smoothie. If they can safely drink out of a beaker or cup, they can drink a smoothie.
Why it’s healthy
Because it’s made of a blend of fruits and/or vegetables a smoothie is full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fibre.
Because some fruits are high in sugar and acids, you will want to be careful about how much you offer throughout the day and definitely don’t skip on brushing their teeth!
There’s nothing with offering your children the occasional cookie or chocolate as a treat (we do) but it’s in their best interests to get them used to enjoying healthy food at the start of their lives.
Hopefully, you’ll find some of the ideas here helpful in getting your little ones to enjoy healthy snacks!