If you’ve been following Bloom for a while you’ll know that I like to make a lot of my children’s snacks. I do this to maximise the nutrients in their snack choices whilst minimising less desirable nutrients such as salt, sugar, fat and refined carbohydrates.
For young children who need to eat regularly, snacks form a large part of their daily diet and should really represent our major food groups as much as possible, not something just grabbed in haste to fill a hole.
Now no one likes to be a slave to their kitchen, so when I bake for the lunchboxes I do large batch cooking and freeze. I look for recipes that include ingredients from our key food groups like fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and seeds (or nuts if your school permits them). I’ll often try and reduce the sugar too. If you need some inspiration you might like to try our green seed slice or coco cranberry bliss balls.
Even with great planning and preparation there are still weeks where I might find I have nothing on hand, or I just don’t want to or have time to cook. In these situations I turn to a selection of pre-packged snacks from the supermarket that still offer plenty of nutrition. I also like to alternate my home cooked choices with purchased snacks to mix things up a bit and ensure the kids don’t get bored of the same old thing.
To help you make smart choices in the supermarket we’ve come up with this list of Bloom approved snacks.
1. Roasted nori sheets – These are a great source of iodine. 1 small 8g packet provides 30% of a young child’s daily iodine requirement. It should be noted that these are very high in salt but as the serving size is so small (8g) the total quantity of salt consumed is small.
2. Fruit/Raisin bread – I’ve always got a loaf in my freezer. Sure it has some added sugar, but most of the sugar comes from the added dried fruit. It’s low GI, filling and has around 120 calories per buttered slice (1 slice is plenty for a recess snack). Tip top have alsohave a wholemeal Raisin toast and that’s got my tick of approval
3. Cheese and Crackers -I’m not really a fan of the pre-packaged cheese and biscuit packs as they cost a fortune. Even when you’re low on time you can still still grab a handful of crackers and cut a slice of cheese (or a cheese stick if you really need to). Not all crackers are created equal though. You definitely want to focus on buying a wholegrain variety (look for those with at least 4g of fibre per 100g) and with a sodium content less than 400mg/100g (harder to find).
My top picks would be Ryvita wholegrain crisp breads (I’d suggest breaking two in halves as they are larger), Vita-Wheat crisp bread range and crackers (note these all exceed 400mg of sodium/100g,but most are under 500g/100g) and the Mary’s Gone Crackers range (although please note these are a more expensive option).
Team with your child’s preferred cheese and you have a filling snack option high in fibre, B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids (from the seeds), calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
3. Roasted or puffed Chickpeas and Fava Beans
The crunchy texture of these products will appeal to many kids.
They come in plain (lightly salted), as well a variety of other flavours. I love that they come in individually wrapped portions so you can simply grab and chuck into the lunchbox. They also hit the mark for fibre content, sodium and overall calories, not to mention they also count towards your child’s daily intake of vegetables!
Another option that’s sure to be a hit with most kids that is filling and high in fibre. I’d recommend you check what type of oil your popcorn is cooked in (or better yet go for air popped, although many kids may find this too bland) and avoid any cooked in palm oil (a saturated fat we want to avoid).
Also look for those with a lower sodium content, ideally less than 400mg per 100g. I’d also stay away from any of the sweetened varieties, children don’t need the extra sugar in these products.
My pick would be CobsR natural sea salt variety. I buy it in the large packs and portion it out to save money, but if you’re really low on time you may prefer the individually packed option.
5. Coles “buddy” dried fruit and seed packets – with a few varieties on offer there should be something here that most kids will like. Some varieties contain “fun” foods like mini marshmallows and chocolate buds. This personally doesn’t bother me and I find the inclusions of some fun foods in a trail mix makes it more likely my kids will eat the whole thing.
6. Weetbix mini breakfast biscuits – These multi-pack biscuits have just over 1 teaspoon of sugar per packet but best of all they have 2.8 g fibre, more than most other snack biscuits on the market. They are also fortified with iron and a range of B vitamins. Bel vita also make a similar biscuit however with 3 teaspoons of sugar per biscuit they are my second choice, although I it should be noted that they contain more fibre at 4g per packet.
7. Milk boxes/Smoothies – Devondale mini milk boxes are a perfect option to deliver a hit of calcium (and protein) to your child’s lunchbox. As they are long life milks you don’t have to worry if they get warm during the day. My kids are happy to have plain milk but I do also give them flavoured ones to mix things up a bit. The Devondale Moo flavoured milks have around 1 tsp of sugar per 100g which is not overly bad given that this product also contains lots of other worthwhile nutrients. Sippah straws are another quick option to pop in the lunchbox with a thermos of plain milk and contain less than 1/2 teaspoon per straw. Nudie also released a range of long life brekkie smoothies last year in flavours such as banana and mixed berry. They are sweetened with maple syrup and have around 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per 100ml.
8. Fruit straps – There are a few different options on the market now, for example The “Fruit Wise” and “Bear Yo Yo’s. Both brands are made from 100% dehydrated fruit with no added sugars or fillers. Per serve these products contain about 1/2 the calories of a fresh piece of fruit. Most people don’t find them as filling as eating fresh fruit (because the water content has been removed from them) and of course being quite sticky they aren’t a great option for your child’s teeth. I wouldn’t make this your every day fruit option but they’re a reasonable back up.
9. Date and seed based bites/bars and protein balls – eg Kez’s kitchen lamington bars. These are made from dates and seeds and have nothing but real ingredients added. If you are buying these sorts of products check the ingredient list and try and avoid those with added sweeteners such as honey or rice syrup. Most of these products are quite pricey and I feel you could make a similar version yourself for much less but for those busy times they are a handy option.
10 Messy Monkeys – Out of all the flavoured savoury snacks/biscuits on the market for children these would probably be my pick. They are high in fibre (2g per serve) and don’t contain artificial flavours or flavour enhancers, the salt and fat content is however quite high (as are many other similar products in this category). My biggest concern with savoury salty snacks for children is that it tends to program their taste buds to want more salty highly flavoured foods and these flavours aren’t found in natural whole foods. That’s not to say that I’d never buy these snacks for my children but I certainly limit them to occasionally and where possible I try to buy plain varieties of biscuits.
11. Mini dips and baby cucumbers – we love the Obela mini dips for the convenience of their grab and go size! Keep and pack of baby cuqs (cucumbers) on hand and have you have a super healthy snack prepared in 30 seconds!