A few months ago I did a tour of a local daycare and noticed that Goldfish crackers (with rancid vegetable oils and sugar) as well Jello (complete with artificial flavors, preservatives and food dye) were on the provided menu. Rather than nourishing a growing body, these kinds of snacks can cause spikes in blood sugar and wreak havoc on gut health. As do those ubiquitous little baggies of Cheerios, that not only contain questionable ingredients (and phytic acid that leaches minerals from the body) but, like all packaged breakfast cereals, go through a process called extrusion that denatures proteins and fats. Grains should be properly prepared by methods such as soaking, sprouting or fermenting, not forced through a machine at high temperature and pressure.
As a society we’ve become fearful of hunger and rather than waiting to eat, we stuff ourselves with processed snacks. A winy child is given an unhealthy snack to placate them- a vicious cycle, as sugar and refined carbohydrates may be contributing to the moody behavior in the first place (see Chris Kresser’s article here).
My pediatrician suggests limiting snacks so that kids are hungry at lunch and dinner and therefore eat what they’re served. While I think this is wise advice, I also see the benefit of a small snack in the afternoon if a busy kid (or adult) needs a little extra fuel. French parents offer children an afternoon treat, called a guté. While the French guté is usually a little sugary in my opinion, I like the idea of offering my son (and myself) a yummy snack that adds nutrients, not just empty calories.
Furthermore, when did we get this idea that kid-food is different from adult-food? I love the French parenting philosophy that suggests kids eat off the regular menu at restaurants and eat what their parents eat at mealtime. So when offering kids snacks, just offer them real food!
Here are my top twenty healthy snack ideas for any age!
1) organic full-fat cheese (preferably raw)
2) organic apple slices with cinnamon, or homemade apple rings
3) raw nuts (soaked in water 8-12 hours and then dried) with a few raisins or other organic dried fruit
4) soy-free grass-fed beef or buffalo jerky
5) fresh cut coconut
6) homemade yogurt popsicle (made from organic, full-fat plain yogurt and fruit, blended and then frozen in a popsicle mold)
7) organic plain yogurt (or 1-2 tbsp coconut oil) with mashed banana and/or shredded coconut and organic raisins
8) organic, raw homemade whole milk kefir (make it a smoothie by adding fruit and raw honey*)
9) raw whole milk smoothie with fruit and raw honey*
10) homemade gelatin jigglers
11) homemade corn chips with salsa and organic sour cream or homemade guacamole (cut organic corn tortillas into triangles, spread both sides with pastured lard and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, flipping them over half way through baking) or use an organic corn tortilla to make a quesadilla
12) 1/2 an avocado with wild fish roe in the center
13) salami from pastured pork
14) carrot sticks with liver paté
15) organic sourdough bread, spread with plenty of grass-fed butter or liver paté
16) organic popcorn with lots of raw butter and sprinkled with nutritional yeast and/or sea salt
17) raw coconut butter with organic berries
18) hard-boiled pastured egg
19) deviled (pastured) eggs, made with homemade mayonnaise
20) “ants on a log”: organic celery with raw nut butter and organic raisins
*note: children under 1 year should not consume honey