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Snack Attack: Tips for Making Kids Snacks Easier (and Healthier)

September 2, 2020
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Last week I polled current Ends+Stems members and a large parenting community on Facebook – What are the biggest food related challenges you’re facing right now? Overwhelmingly … parents said: Snacks and Lunches. Help!

“My struggle is my kids frequently requesting snacks/meals throughout the day.”

“But grab and go ideas for the kids would be helpful.”

“Ideas for prep ahead for kids lunches and snacks but not too elaborate.”

“I just need more healthy toddler snack ideas! This kid is always hungry and I need more substantial things to feed his bottomless pit

I think about snacks and lunches as serving different purposes at different times and when we create our family schedule, they are penciled in with specific time frames, so I’m going to split these topics up. Let’s start with snacks.

We snack for a few reasons

Boredom, to celebrate, we’re actually thirsty, stress, loneliness, to procrastinate, oh and sometimes even because we’re legitimately hungry between meals are many of the reasons we snack. I am not a scientist, a nutritionist, or a doctor, so I don’t personally have an issue with any of these reasons for snacking. 

(If you’re trying to watch your overall food intake or weight or have health concerns please consult a nutritionist for healthy snacking). 

One of my top concerns on this list is actually thirst.

They say we often eat when really we just need some water, so one of my “rules” for myself and my kids is to offer a glass of water while we’re talking about getting a snack or before we actually sit down to eat one. It’s usually happily received and we move on. During COVID and remote learning an issue of water glasses has arisen. There are no fewer than 9,237 half filled water glasses and bottles all over the house and not a clean one remaining in the cabinet. Recently, I have made some changes to this set up. Every morning, my kindergartener – Ramona – gets one glass for the day. I have also set up a step stool close enough to the sink so when she needs to refill it, she can reach and reuse the glass. I do remind her throughout the day to drink. Importantly, when she asks for water we invariably have this conversation:

R – Mom can I have some water

Me – Yes, where is your glass

R – I don’t know can I have a new one

Me – No. Please go find it

R – I can’t. Oh, wait I remember. It’s in the other room can you go get it

Me – No. You can do that.

R – Ugh, ok fine. 

And she gets it. Sometimes I do think it would be easier to just do it for her, but luckily, I am quite stubborn and believe in staying firm now so that she’ll eventually learn to be independent. (I’ll let you know if that works!) 

Once our thirst is quenched, we can talk food.

Much like for my dinner menu planning, I enlist both kids (5 and 2.5 years old) to give me an idea of what snacks they would like during the upcoming week. Watermelon or pineapple? Raspberries or strawberries? Veggie straws or string cheese? When they have some input and see that I listen to them as part of the process it’s easier to get them to eat it! It’s not perfect, it’s a process.

Last week, Ramona told me she used to have yogurt covered raisins at preschool and loved them. She requested some and though I am not a fan, I bought them. Surprise! She dislikes them. (Anyone want to pick up these yogurt raisins? DM me). I don’t mind her willingness to try new things, and of course she won’t always like them, but it was fairly natural to have a conversation about not wasting food and choosing snack options for the following week carefully so we can stay committed to those choices.

Last thing, before I get to the straight tips and ideas.

I separate things into 2 categories: morning snacks and afternoon snacks. I’m firmly in the camp that a cookie or other treat is part of a healthy diet and life, but everything in moderation. Cookies are afternoon snacks not breakfast snacks (but between you and me, that doesn’t apply to moms who are stressed out, working really hard, and sometimes just need a god-damned cookie for breakfast ok? Don’t judge me.) If cookies are on the snack menu, then they come after I get a reasonably healthy lunch into their bellies first.

Tips for making snacks easier and healthier for kids

Have a Schedule

Block out categories of snacks for the day so it’s firm. Example:

Let Them Be Independent

(I love this for slightly older kids who still need guidance, I’m thinking 2nd-6th grade)

Set out all of the snacks for the day in a small basket or open tupperware. Assemble one per kid with their name on it. You can assemble these the night before and even ask the kid to help get it ready. Keep it on the counter or in the fridge. Each kid can eat everything in that basket, at any time, and in any order they like (I see you cookie for breakfast-snack kid). But that’s it. They do not get anything else except meals. 

Either Way

Remove snacks from somewhere that kids can reach on their own and would be tempted to overthrow your system. Or, if that is your system then, why are you even reading this? Honestly, when I was growing up we had a good “snack house” and no rules around snacking. So, if this is your method, just make sure the open snacking is set up with things you’re ok with your kids eating.

Older Kids Who Snack

If you have “open snacking,” which IMHO is completely appropriate for older kids ,you’ll still need some rules. 

Snack Ideas for All Ages in 4 Categories

Things You Can Prep Ahead

(do these the night before or make enough for a week)

Things You Have to Cook or Prep Just Before Eating, But Are Still Super Easy

Basic AF

Sweet Treats

Alison Mountford is the Founder and CEO of Ends+Stems, a meal planning service designed to reduce household food waste and stop the effects of climate change. Alison has been named a Rubicon Waste Fit Champion, was a finalist for the Spoon Tech Startup Showcase, and has appeared on many podcasts and radio shows, and works as a food waste consultant.

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