On-The-Go Snacking For Parents And Kids
This is a guest post from registered dietician and nutritionist Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.
You know your kids need to eat frequently, but what about you? When you’re packing snacks for the little ones, why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself? After learning about intuitive eating in our last article, you should know that not honoring your body and mind’s hunger or letting life distract you from it, can result in overconsumption of food later and irritability and fatigue on the way. So, what type of snacks can you and your children both enjoy and when?
Let’s start with the harsh reality that “kid food” isn’t always the most nourishing and that as parents we tend to accept this instead of changing it. It may seem easier to purchase mostly overly-refined pre-packaged foods that don’t require much prep, but in the long run we do our kids a disservice as they’re developing their life-long food preferences now. If you’re raising young eaters in their toddler years, offer them more foods you might choose as a snack. If you’re raising older children or teens, slowly begin altering the type of snacks that are available in the home so they aren’t overwhelmed but at the same time can adapt to eating more nutrient dense foods when they get hungry.
While amount consumed will vary based on age, activity level and just one’s hunger and appetite on a given day, the actual snack foods offered can be the same for the whole family! Fruits and vegetables are an easy place to start, but won’t provide all of the energy and nutrients needed at a snack. Pairing produce with other foods helps you obtain all key nutrients needed to feel satisfied: fiber, protein and fat. If you are used to grabbing pieces of fruit when you head out the door, keep zipper bags of nuts or individual peanut or sunflower seed butter packets near the fruit so you bring them as well. Granola bars are another food to add nut or seed butter to. The same goes for vegetables. If you have some baby carrots to take with you, bring a bag of roasted chickpeas or some string cheese to make that snack more satisfying.
Comparing the protein, fiber and fat content in prepackaged foods can also help you make more nourishing purchases, but the ingredient list is just as important. If you notice the protein is coming from a protein powder or the fiber is a separate ingredient versus naturally occurring from whole grains, produce or legumes, you may not want that to be a staple snack food in your home. When you see a list of concentrates, isolates and additives, the product isn’t as nutrient dense as others with whole food ingredients. You may also notice you and your kids’ digestive tracts react negatively. For foods you always keep in your pantry and choose as on-the-go snacks, keep the ingredients simple by checking that you’d be able to make it on your own if you had the time and equipment.
- Make whole food snacks together. Kids are much more likely to try, and enjoy, foods that they have a connection to. As early as toddler age, have your kids pour ingredients into a bowl or food processor to help make items like zucchini muffins or energy bites.
- Keep balanced emergency snacks in the car, diaper bags or backpacks. Whole food energy bars, roasted beans, nuts and dried fruit are all foods you can store for weeks (even months) before they spoil. Be sure what you have packed provides a bit of fiber, protein and fat to keep the whole crew satisfied if you forget to pack snacks or wind up away from home longer than anticipated.
- Have honey packets stashed to satisfy a sweet tooth. There’s no question your kids will still want to enjoy sweets, and you will too! While it’s okay to have a cupcake or cookie as a treat, adding some honey to fruit or the peanut butter crackers you packed can satisfy that craving. This way, you and the kids won’t want to go overboard once another treat is available or, you’ll save yourself some time and money by skipping the ice cream shop.
Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN