With the start of a new year and resolutions being made, I thought I would share a list of healthy snacks for those of you desiring to make healthy changes to your family's lifestyle. Diets for losing weight really only work for the short term, so it's important to make changes to your whole family's daily diet. It will benefit more than your waistline. By instilling healthy eating habits now, while you still have control over what your children eat, you are giving your child the gift of health. Here are some tips before I go any further:
Tip #1: If you want your family to stop eating junk food, you have to STOP buying it. Period. If it's in the house, they will choose Cheetos and Twinkies over yogurt and fruit every time.
Tip #2: Believe me, you are NOT depriving yourself or them. After a period of eating good food, the junk food won't taste quite as good. And if you are feeding them healthier stuff at home, you won't feel as bad when they eat less nutritious things at a party or you eat fast food every once in a while.
Tip #3: Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms are junk food, not a healthy breakfast or a snack food. Adding vitamins and a little whole grain to a vat of sugar and artificial colors doesn't make it healthy.
Tip #4: Yogurt that is colored like a rainbow, tastes like Key Lime Pie or Chocolate Fudge, or comes in a tube is more like a dessert than a nutritious snack. It has too much sugar, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. If it's artificially sweetened, that just makes it less healthy. Buy a large container of organic plain or vanilla, low-fat yogurt and add fruit and honey to flavor.
We are a family of snackers. So when we made the change (actually, a series of changes) to healthier eating, I had to come up with several healthy alternatives to tame my snacking beasts. I aim for natural, whole foods as much as possible and staple foods that have had minimal processing. In order to maintain my sanity and harmony in our home, I also purchase some convenience foods. But these convenience foods must meet specific criteria to be considered worthy of being eaten by my family.
Here are many of our regular snacks:
- Fresh or frozen fruit - To save money, buy extra berries when in-season and freeze.
- Fresh veggies - Serve with yogurt Ranch dip or hummus.
- Air-popped popcorn - Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt, lemon pepper, chili powder, nutritional yeast, or your favorite seasoning.
- Organic apple slices or celery and natural peanut butter
- Fruit smoothies - To add extra nutrition, throw in a few baby carrots, ground flaxseed or chia seeds, yogurt, or probiotic powder.
- Organic tortilla chips and salsa, black bean dip, or guacamole - Love the salsa at your favorite Mexican restaurant? Ask for the recipe or buy some to take home. It will keep for several days to a week, usually.
- Hummus and pita chips or whole wheat pretzels
- Fruit salad - Combine your choice of chopped apples, pears, oranges or mandarin orange slices, halved grapes, pineapple chunks, diced peaches, and seasonal fruits in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate to let juices mingle. Add sliced bananas before serving.
- Organic string cheese
- Hard-boiled eggs - Boil a half dozen or more one day a week to have on hand for snacking, egg salad sandwiches, chef salads, or egg sauce over toast.
- Organic yogurt - Make your own yogurt. Sweeten plain yogurt with honey or maple syrup or stir in fruit preserves. Replace sour cream with organic whole milk plain Greek yogurt. You can make your own Greek yogurt by straining plain yogurt through cheesecloth.
- Yogurt parfait - Layer yogurt, granola or muesli, and your choice of fresh fruit in a bowl or cup.
- Green salad - Experiment with a variety of greens other than iceberg lettuce, add chopped veggies, dried fruit, nuts/seeds, vinaigrette or homemade dressing. Copy your favorite salads from restaurants. Get kids to eat more salad by setting up a salad bar at home with all the fixings and let them make their own.
- Granola - Homemade is better than store-bought, easy to make, and customizable.
- Trail mix - Mix up your own by combining your favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruits, coconut, dark chocolate chips. One of our favorites includes almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, coconut chips, and dark chocolate chips.
- Nuts and seeds - Raw, roasted, or soaked and dehydrated. Try pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts.
- Whole grain muffins - "Healthify" a favorite recipe by replacing all or some of the oil with applesauce, reducing or replacing some of the sugar with honey, or substituting whole wheat pastry flour. Try my banana, blueberry oat, or pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.
- Natural peanut butter (or other nut butter) on whole grain toast - Spread a thin layer of nut butter on warm toast, it just melts in. Yum! Make your own peanut butter.
- Natural applesauce - Read the ingredients because most applesauce has high fructose corn syrup added. Choose organic or make your own applesauce.
- Frozen juice pops - We like homemade with 100% juice or leftover smoothie, but there are several organic/natural ones at many grocery stores.
Do you have a favorite healthy snack?
Do you have any questions about making healthy changes to your family's diet?