Do you like the snacks your mom makes?
Ruby Greiders big brown eyes widen and her blonde curls bounce as she nods her head emphatically.
The 3-year-olds plate is filled with sugar snap peas, cheese, apples and homemade coconut almond butter. To drink, she and her four siblings split a pitcher of a smoothie made with banana, strawberry, peach, raspberries and yogurt.
Strawberry-banana smoothies are my favorite, 12-year-old Emmett Greider says. Really everything is pretty much delicious.
Well-planned afternoon snacks, such as those that Fort Wayne mom Hallie Greider serves her five children, can be an important part of the day as kids head back to school.
Kathy Wehrle, community outreach dietitian at Parkview Hospital, says snacks are good especially for children because it keeps their energy levels up – obviously if its the right kind of food.
In general, the data shows kids are low in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and calcium choices, Wehrle says. Snacking is a good time to work on that.
Wehrle recommends combining a protein choice with fruits or vegetables. Greek yogurt with fruit and almonds is a good choice as is stone-ground tortilla chips with beans and salsa.
Our snacks involve as many whole foods as possible, Greider says. A selection of raw veggies put on a plate with various dips always get eaten. Nuts work well for us, and many times I slice some raw-milk cheese alongside them.
Served with the vegetables are alternatives to the ubiquitous ranch dressing: hummus, white bean and garlic dip, lentil-walnut pate and roasted red pepper dip, which Emmett almost puts on a slice of apple. Instead, he tops the fruit with the familys latest favorite nut butter: homemade coconut almond.
I want (my children) to navigate this world with a sense of awareness about the choices they are making, Greider says. For us, that doesnt mean we eliminate everything bad, it just means we are constantly educating about ingredients and the effect of food on our bodies when we do indulge in less-healthy or completely non-healthy options.
I want more of the coconut thing, 5-year-old Alden pipes up, having finished his smoothie.
Had there been any leftover smoothie, Greider might have made yogurt freeze pops – something Heather Puff does.
We make Popsicles out of yogurt and anything yummy, says Puff, a mother to two children (ages 3 and 9 months). Theres a particularly good cheesecake Popsicle that involves yogurt and cream cheese.
That frozen pop – Blueberry Cheesecake – features blueberries and natural sweetener, honey or maple syrup. When serving her children snacks, Puff says she is mindful of how much sugar is in the dish. Items with added sugars are avoided, but she doesnt worry about things such as dairy and fruit, which naturally have sugar.
We have a lot of snacks that consist of something dipped in yogurt and frozen. These are very, very popular with both my kids, Puff says. Blueberries? Dip them in yogurt, throw them on a tray and toss them in the freezer. Bananas? Put a stick in half of it, roll it in yogurt, throw it in the freezer.
If theres leftover granola, Puff will dip the yogurt-covered bananas in that before freezing. And leftover yogurt? Its spooned onto trays in bite-size pieces.
The trick to getting children to eat healthier snacks, Greider and Dani Vani McGuire say, is to make healthy the norm.
Our kids love all kinds of food including the junk but sometimes they think the healthy food is junk food, McGuire says. One day my husband came home from work and my daughter, who was 5 at the time, said, Mom gave us junk food today. We had beets, strawberries and celery with peanut butter on it!
Both of McGuires children will be in school this year – her daughter in first grade and her 3-year-old son in preschool. Packed lunches include almond butter and jelly sandwiches with baby carrots and applesauce or leftovers from the night before.
As for snacks?
Kale chips – amazing taste believe it or not, she says.
Coconut Almond Butter
2 cups of dry roasted or raw almonds
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Place all of the ingredients into a food processor. Turn the food processor on high and let it run for about 10 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally, until the mixture is creamy.
Note: As you start the process, you may wonder how in the world this crumbly mess will turn into almond butter as it seems so dry, Greider says. But trust me, it will transform into creamy, delicious goodness ready for spreading or dipping.
– Hallie Greider
Blueberry Cheesecake Freeze Pops
Note: For children younger than 1, substitute maple syrup for honey or omit sweetener.
For the cheesecake:
3 ounces cream cheese
3 cups whole milk plain yogurt
3/4 cup crushed graham crackers (omit for grain-free families)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the blueberries:
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the cheesecake, dice up the cream cheese into small chunks and blend with yogurt until mostly smooth. Add the graham crackers, honey, lemon juice and vanilla; stir. For the berries, purée the blueberries, honey and lemon juice. Layer the cheesecake mixture and blueberry mixture in freezer pop molds or paper cups; freeze. Substitute blueberries for any other berry to mix it up.
– Heather Puff
Blueberries & Cream Pops
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup sweetener such as honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt*, plus more for layering
In a blender, purée berries with the syrup (can be omitted) and yogurt until smooth. Layer in freezer pop molds with additional yogurt. Freeze.
*To make your own vanilla yogurt, mix plain yogurt with honey or maple syrup and vanilla extract.
– Heather Puff
Kale, stems removed
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Brush kale with oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until crunchy.
– Dani Vani McGuire