By Dr. Michelle Peris, ND
Keeping food healthy and creative is an on-going priority among parents; and it seems that it’s easy to get stuck in a ‘food rut’ once you find your child’s favourite healthy snack. With a little planning it can be attainable to keep healthy options in your pantry.
One thing that works really well in our home is to always keep a variety of healthy snacks readily available so that when the craving hits, the little ones can have a nibble and then continue to play. This healthy platter (I so cleverly call the ‘grazing station’) focuses on colourful, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. This works really well throughout the day, but I do eliminate the ‘grazing station’ after lunch or naps as I want my kids to be good and hungry for dinner.
It goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyway; the importance of healthy snacking goes beyond providing and meeting the nutritional demands of your growing child. A healthy diet can positively influence concentration, focus, behaviour and reduce the risk of hyperactivity. What you feed your child impacts virtually all aspects of their well-being, so choose whole, unprocessed foods that are organic (as much as possible), colourful and nutrient dense.
Allow me to inspire new snack ideas for the whole family; here are some staples we keep on hand at our house.
Nut and seed butters are a great way to boost protein and fat into your child’s diet and a great way to provide variety in your child’s nutrient profile. Nuts and seeds are high in biotin, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Some of our favourites are almond, peanut, macadamia, cashew, pumpkin, tahini and sunflower seed butter. Spread it onto apple slices and you'll have one happy child!
I like simple foods and hummus is one that sits at the top of my list. Also a great source of protein and fat, and usually an easy way to get your little one to eat raw vegetables. Cut up veggie sticks and provide a bowl full of hummus to the ‘grazing station’ and its an instant hit. You can even use organic corn chips or quinoa crackers, but offer the veggie sticks first. This one can get a bit messy, seemingly the most pleasurable part for your toddler, but if it means they eat healthy, I don’t mind the clean up.
Getting creative in the kitchen can actually be very simple and there are really great ways to clean up some of your favourite goodies. Puddings are a great way to provide fibre, fats and protein that taste great without all the sugar and processed ingredients in store bought puddings. Kids really do think these recipes are great snack/dessert options and you can feel good knowing you are nourishing your child, while meeting their nutritional needs.
Muffins and cookies are a great way to get whole, nutrient dense foods into your child’s routine. This is a favourable option for those who have particular eaters and find carbohydrates easier then raw fruits and veggies. But instead of using refined grains, choose different flours to bake with such as coconut, brown rice, arrowroot, tapioca and sorghum flours. Or even find an all-purpose flour blend that includes these nutrient dense grains. You can keep things sweet with natural sweeteners as an alternative to their refined counterparts. My favourites are coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey. You can then add delicious items such as dates, nuts, seeds, even vegetables and fruit and all of the sudden you have transformed a sporadic treat to an everyday nutritious snack option.
Does your child like to snack? I would love to hear about your favourite healthy snack options or what you think of mine. Happy Eating!
Dr. Michelle Peris is a Naturopathic Doctor in Oakville with a special interest in women's health and pediatric health care. Make an appointment or connect with Dr. Peris:
Website – www.DrMomND.ca