Getting back into the swing of the school year can take some time. It seems like summer is just long enough for you to establish a routine, and then you have to start all over again. One of the easiest ways to make the transition from long, carefree summer days to packed-to-the-gills school days is to make sure everyone is getting good nutrition.
Breakfast has a reputation for being the most important meal of the day, but snacktime can be equally vital to a successful day. Kids work hard all day, waking up early, sitting in class, playing with their peers, and generally gaining the knowledge and skills to grow up. That’s a huge job for small human beings!
By the time they get back home in the afternoon, it’s time for some serious nourishment. Sadly, that’s also the time when not-so-healthy prepared foods are often pulled from the pantry as a quick snack. But with just a little extra planning, you can have healthy, homemade, kid-friendly snacks ready to go when the kids walk through the door. Below are ideas for all appetites and taste buds, whether sweet or savory, crunchy or chewy, big or small.
By now, most snack-loving folk with whole foods-based diets are familiar with crunchy, roasted chickpeas. It’s as simple as opening a can of chickpeas, draining and drying them well, tossing with spices, and roasting until crispy and browned. This same formula can be applied to edamame as well, if soy is allowed in your diet. Simply toss shelled edamame with a little oil, salt, and any seasonings you like, such as curry powder or garam masala, chili powder, or your own special spice blend. Spread the beans in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast at 425℉ until browned and crispy, about 20 minutes. Even better, throw them in the oven while you’re roasting veggies for dinner, saving you time and effort.
For the sweet tooth, healthy popsicles are a snack that never fails to please even the pickiest of eaters. The frozen format tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating ice cream, but without all the sugar and stabilizers. To make a plethora of pops, start by choosing a base. The base can be non-dairy yogurt, any non-dairy milk, coconut water, or unsweetened fruit juice. Then add mix-ins like fresh fruit and gluten or grain-free granola. You can even puree fruit with a liquid to make fruit-packed pops. For instance, puree watermelon with coconut water and freeze, or blend roasted strawberries (roasting concentrates the berry flavor!) with non-dairy milk and a little splash of maple syrup or agave. You can buy inexpensive popsicle molds, or use glasses or paper cups for freezing the popsicle mixture. The best thing about these simple pops is that you can make a big batch, providing enough snacks for a week or more.
Finally, for kids who love a hands-on snack, try making a fresh fruit salsa and serve with healthier homemade tortilla chips. Chop up strawberries, kiwi, and mango (or any of your kids’ favorite fruits, really) and toss with a little citrus juice and maybe a touch of agave if the fruits are very tart. To make tortilla chips, cut organic corn tortillas (or any gluten free flatbread or tortilla) into small triangles, brush on one side with melted coconut oil (and sprinkle with a little cinnamon, if desired), then bake at 350℉ until crisp, about 10 minutes. Change up the fruits depending on the season, or get a set of tiny cookie cutters and let your kids cut out fruit shapes.
These easy snacks will not only delight kids of all ages, but they will lift spirits after a long day at school and fuel your little ones through all their after-school activities and homework. A little extra time spent in the kitchen can translate into happier, healthier kids with more stamina for their busy lives.
Megan’s abiding passion is culinary arts. Her career in food began on a small farm, transitioned to extensive food and cooking research, and finally led her to working for the iconic cookbook, the Joy of Cooking and with natural food brands across the country in her role at HEART: Creative Culinary Agency.