Snack. The word itself sounds fun and delicious, right? We all perk up when imagining our own personal-sized package of chips, crackers or cookies. Sadly, these so-called “snacks” are just treats with a convenient name change. Most Americans are not eating quality meals or snacks, but instead are eating packages of sugary, salty, empty carbs with minimal nutrition.
We have been conditioned to crave these snacks in bright, colorful boxes, and most of these packaged foods aren’t filled with much except additives to keep them looking their best, preservatives to keep them on the shelf longer and sugar and salt to keep us and our kids wanting more.
As parents, we know this junk is not what our kids’ growing bodies and brains need to thrive, but it gets complicated. They beg for goldfish and gummies, and with our busy schedules, we feel there’s no time for homemade whole-grain graham crackers.
So how do we seek better, real, whole foods without becoming full-time homesteaders? I believe real food can be simple, especially when it comes to snacks. Here are 30 simple real-food snacks for the whole family. All are based on the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for well-balanced eating for growing kids. They contain fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains with essential nutrients and energy that can support normal growth and good health, and have high levels of nutrients protein, vitamins, and minerals compared with the amounts of calories, fat and sodium.
Let’s think beyond the box for snacks, and lunches too.
- Homemade Cinnamon Graham Crackers. These are so simple to mix, slice and bake! Sandwich them with your nut butter of choice.
- Seasonal fruits. Choose plums, melons, berries, apples or pears in season. Each season foods change, and it’s a great way to broaden kids’ pallets.
- Toasted Whole Grain Pita Chips. Serve these with hummus or black bean dip.
- Super Trail Mix. Include raw nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruit and a little chocolate, but no candies or coated fruits.
- Baked Sweet Potato Fries.
- Vegetables and dip. Serve cucumbers, red peppers, carrots, snap peas and cherry tomatoes with guacamole.
- Smoothie Bowl. Make your favorite smoothie extra thick, then top with fruit, nuts and seeds.
- Popcorn. Making popcorn is a fun after-school activity to do with the kids. Add cheese or spices to change it up.
- Crispy Salty Sweet Chick Peas.
- Easy Cheddar Crackers. These are super simple and better than goldfish.
- Cheesy Kale Chips.
- Brussel Sprout Chips.
- No-Bake Super Seed Bars.
- Whole-Grain Muffins. Use this simple, basic recipe and add nuts, seeds and fruits.
- Yogurt. Top it with fresh fruit and Homemade Granola.
- Easy Homemade Corn Chips. Serve with salsa or guacamole.
- Homemade No Bake Brownie Balls.
- Superfood Breakfast Cookies.
- Apple slices with nut or seed butter.
- Smoothie Popsicles. Just add your favorite smoothie to a popsicle mold.
- Chocolate Avocado Pudding.
- Mango Chia Pudding.
- Hard boiled egg or deviled egg (made with yogurt, mustard, salt and pepper).
- Mini Pizza. Make it on whole-grain English muffins or pita.
- Salami Stacks. Salami (nitrate free), organic cheese and cucumbers or whole-grain crackers.
- Pancake Sandwich. Use leftover pancakes and sandwich with almond butter and raw honey.
- Frozen Banana. Roll it in chocolate pieces, coconut and nuts.
- Chocolate Cherry Bars.
- Fast Frozen Yogurt. You’re just a minute away from fresh, real froyo.
- Granola Bars. These are crunchy, and better than the packaged kind.
Plan your snacks like you plan your meals. Choose a few snacks for your weekly plan, then prep and/or cook for 20 minutes on Sunday. When snack time rolls around, you are ready before the meltdowns begin. Put any of these goodies in your own personalized bag to make it feel a little more special. Happy snacking, and keep it real!
Jenny Blakeney is a former junk food addict, L.A. mom, and creator of the website RealFoodScout.com, a site devoted to helping families discover real food and simplify their lives.