Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Healthy Snacks for Little Snack Monsters

Aaaaah, snacks... the snack issue... the snack problem, the darn processed snack that my kids could live on! If it was up to them, they would just eat snacks all day long and skip the meals. They would have snack for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and for snack too!

 I am slooooowwwly winning the battle for healthy snacks, but it is not easy. Between school recess where little friends bring not so healthy (but "looking" healthy) processed snacks, or the playdates, birthday parties, and the trips to the grocery store where they go straight for the boxed cereal (aka empty calories, don't even get me started!), it sometimes feels like pushing a boulder uphill.

I have started to make my own cereal bars in my dehydrator, and I swear, if I could wrap those in processed food papers, my oldest one would eat them. But because they are homemade, he's decided he's not going to like them :(

One thing I don't want, however, is to be a nazi granola mom that takes the fun out of eating and forces my kids to eat the way I do when they see no reason for that. So it's a slow process of teaching and educating them about making healthy choices. In the mean time, I have learnt to read labels and navigate the aisles of the grocery store.

The only place I feel confident buying processed snacks at the moment is Trader Joe's, and maybe whole foods. The reason is I just found out that none of the products that have the Trader Joe's label use any GMOs. I have another post in my mind about how to avoid GMO foods, but in a nutshell, certain ingredients like soy, canola oil, corn and beet sugar for example, are always GMO, unless otherwise specified. And guess what? They are in almost EVERY processed food! Except for foods that carry the TJ's or Whole Foods label.
For me, as a mom, that was fantastic news! that means I can once in while buy that box of cereals or cookies or crackers without feeling too bad.

But most of the time, this is what you will find in our pantry, besides fresh fruits:

  •  Non sweetened dried fruits: banana, mango, pineapple, apples, apricots, raisins, peaches, figs, dates, prunes... TJ's has a variety of them. Make sure you pick the one that has no sugar added, as many do, and dried fruits are already naturally high in fructose.
  • Raw nuts and trail mixes: The Go Raw Trek Mix from TJ is the only one I find that is fully raw. When nuts are roasted, they oxidate and the healthy oils they contain are degraded.

 That is why we also buy almost only Raw Almond Butter. the yummi sunflower seed butter is made with roasted sunflowers and has added sugar, and peanut butter is generally made with roasted peanuts. We avoid the latter, as my husband is highly allergic.

  • Apple sauce, apple carrot crushers (the kids love them, and it's a sneaky way to get some carrots in), with no sugar added.
  • Eggplant Hummus: of all the hummus sold at TJ's, this one is the only one that doesn't have canola oil. Canola oil is not a healthy oil. Generally processed at high temperatures, and almost always made from genetically engineered crop, I avoid it like pest. This Hummus had only pronounceable ingredients, which means it more natural and healthy in my opinion. The kids eat it with baby carrots or sugar snap peas, or on pita bread.
  • Brown rice cake: The kids love to spread almond butter on them and a little bit of honey, or eat them plain
  • Pure bars: made out of dried fruits, nuts and some agave syrup, they contain pure products (depending on your stance on agave, which I am still undecided about). No unpronounceable ingredients, no additives, just pure.
  • Occasional fair trade organic dark chocolate. The one pictured above is very basic, no weird ingredients, no soy lecithin or corn syrup, just 3-4 ingredients, the way chocolate is supposed to be.

There are a few more items that I sometimes buy, like organic tortilla chips, organic popcorn made with olive oil (though I tend to make my own popcorn at home with organic coconut oil and organic popcorn, which you can find at TJ's). But those items involve processing food in oil at high temperature, so by nature... not good for you! However, I don't want to be extreme and traumatize my kids or annoy my friends. There is room for celebrating, special treats, and special occasions, exceptions, and all that good stuff. What I am talking about here is the daily routines, the eating habits that we are trying to form in our kids.

What about you? What healthy options have you found for your little snack monsters? I would love to hear them and get some ideas from you, or questions, or comments...

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