Food

Healthy snacks for kids

11:24 AM


Recently, a reader working for nuts.com and I got into contact and talked about healthy snacks she suggested that I should write a post about my take on kids friendly healthy snacks. Needless to say I thought that was a very good idea and I was all up for the challenge.
I certainly always made it clear over the years that I prefer healthy food over anything else and have been encouraging Ishita to discover new tastes since she started solids (which was a long long time ago).

When it comes to snacks, I believe they should be small, and only serve the purpose to tide you over to the next meal. I know this definition varies for different people, and in different cultures. In India for example, a snack can mean a pizza slice or a sandwich. Both of which are considered a meal in the big old West. By snack, I usually think of a 100-200 calories bite, generally a whole food that requires little or no prep. Because, if one has the time to put together something hugely elaborate together, they are hungry enough and clearly have the time to fix a small meal.
Snacks should be as simple and as unprocessed as possible for me to call them one. The only exception being cake (I'll come back to that)


Below is a list of snacks that are popular with Ishita, and are quite kids friendly. I am definitely not one of these moms that will painstakingly cut fruits and put them on a plate so that they look like the rainbow, a dog or an airplane though. First because I have better things to do, and then because a kid that is hungry will eat without caring about the shape their banana has.

Without further ado, here is our favourites over here :

- Fruits
You can't go wrong with seasonal fruits. it's impossible to go wrong with that. Most of them are also travel friendly and can be handled by small hands quite easily. Think banana, grapes, berries, apple wedges. Plus they all come in bright cheerful colours that are sure to put anybody in a good mood on top of providing them with essential nutrients.

- Mix it with yogurt.
We mostly eat plain yogurt in which we put pieces of fruits over here. in Switzerland you usually find these yogurts ready made. But, it's really not that difficult to pull at home, and I have been doing it for years here in India. Ishita's favourite is yogurt mixed with pomegranate seeds, without any added sugar or sweetener. I also favour full fat dairy in general. Low fat is process crap that has been loaded with sweeteners to compensate. Don't EVER fall for it.

- Go nuts over nuts.
I love, we all love eating nuts. Nuts are great! Nature's best snack food. It is loaded in minerals, essential healthy fats and vitamins. It comes in a tiny package and a handful is all you need to kill that hunger pang. Sure, they are considered costly. But, think about it, that handful of wholesome goodness that makes for a serving size cost as much as a pack of chips while only serve to spike your blood sugar and make you fat.
Mix them and add a few dry fruits and you have your very own trail mix.
Process a batch with oats, coconut oil, flax seeds and a little honey and you have a home made granola.

- Roasted ragi chips.
Ragi is the name given to red millet in India. It is a wholesome grain that helps control blood sugar and has heaps of benefit. Roasted ragi chips is something you usually find in stores that sell namkeens, or in health stores. I wrote about it and shared a picture once, you can find that blog post here. This snack has been a huge hit at every play dates we had, so much so we rarely buy potato chips, because those are really really really really good.

- Hummus and carrot sticks.
Not only is hummus super easy to make at home, it also keeps in the fridge in an airtight container for quite a few days. In our home hummus and carrots sticks are either a snack, or a meal, it all depends on the size of the serving. It is also a tiffin box friendly food. One of our big winners.

- Let them have cake.
Yes, you read right: CAKE. Cake is not the big bad devil it has been made to be. Cake is an umbrella term that regroup sugar loaded bombs coated in artificial colours and healthier, much healthier options.
In Switzerland, like in many Central European countries we have a tradition of "Coffee and Cake" which is a name given to the afternoon snack. In my neck of the wood it is also reffered as "The 4 o'clock".
Kids obviously don't drink coffee or tea, but they usually come home from school at that time and need a snack to tide them over to dinner. That snack is usually cake. The wholesome sponge with no icing type.
Think lemon loaves, muffins, and other flavoured sponges.
In Switzerland it is also very common to substitute half the white flour with ground hazelnuts or ground almonds (with the brown skin). These cakes can be made in advance and stored in the freezer until needed. In cupcake forms they make for a easy to handle serving.

The common recipe for all these delicious sponges is to take a certain number of eggs (more eggs mean more batter) and weight them in their shell. Then take that same weight in sugar, butter and flour and add the flavours and add ins you want. I usually substitute half the flour for ground almonds, reduce the sugar a little and leave some of the butter out if the extra add ins are moist enough. It's as simple as that.

I believe in whole foods rather than low sugar, low fat, low something. The key is moderation and the real enemy is over processed ingredients laced with artificial substances. On top of it, kids are usually active, they need food that are packed with both energy and nutrients to keep them going.

15 comments

  1. Great list!
    Dates, raisins, & dried apricots make good snacks for a sweet tooth & travel well also.
    I make American style 'quick bread' with banana, apple, zucchini, carrot, or pumpkin puree with whole wheat flour (chakki atta) for snacks too. American quick breads are really unfrosted cake but baked in loaves - perhaps that's why they are called bread?

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    1. Yes I think the term bread is what is used in the U.S. For that type of cake. Maybe because they are baked in the rectangle tin meant for loaves. In Switzerland we call them cake, because a bread has to have a crunchy crust. I think in America cake usually means something that has a cream filling and icing right?

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    2. In the US cake can be all sorts of baked sweet batter in many forms and may be iced or cream filled or not. What Americans call 'coffee cakes' (a spiced square sheet cake topped with streusel and perhaps fruit) my Dutch mom's family would call a 'platz'. An American 'pound cake' is a plain unfrosted loaf shaped cake rich in eggs & butter.
      In England they make 'tea loaves' which is basically unfrosted cake in loaf form- maybe that's where the American quick bread came from?

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    3. I think the Swiss cake is probably close to what you call a pound cake in America then, but it is also close to the British tea cake baked in bread tins.

      Thinking of it, we reserve the term bread to yeast preparations in Europe. I think it could be that the tin in which it is baked give the name Quick bread in America since both pound cakes and tea cakes are baked in the same tin used to bake bread loaves. In Central Europe people don't really bake bread in tins though, I think the concept is more of a British one. In Switzerland we refer to that kind of bread using the term "Toast bread" because it usually comes presliced in stores and we only really eat it if toasted. The concept of club sandwich or just sandwich made with that bread came in the 90's in Switzerland, and I don't think it is as wide spread still. sandwiches are made with baguette bread most of the time, or German style bread rolls, and in some cases in buns that would be called "Hot dog buns" in America but are never really used for hot dogs in Switzerland because what we call a hot dog is a baguette segment with a hole made in the middle in which you jam the wiener with ketchup and mustard.

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    4. I never really thought of it, but yes the British are the only Europeans who bake bread in tins- they are also the only ones like their bread a bit sweet with extra sugar added. The British seem to like to add sugar to everything. Food from the American Southeast (which was originally settled by the British).
      Americans & British also don't like much of a crust on their breads. Although I grew up in a town with a Basque bakery so I love a chewy sourdough baguette.
      American quick breads include 'what we call biscuits' which are like a savory British scone- basically flour, fat, salt & baking powder rolled or dropped into rounds then baked & served along side a meal like breakfast or dinner.
      The Swiss cake I am familiar with is much lighter than the American pound cake. Pound cake is very dense & buttery, the eggs are not beaten until frothy and much more butter is used - traditionally a pound of butter, a pound of eggs, and a pound of flour with no leavening agent & a little vanilla or lemon flavor added.
      Hot dog buns in America are rather rubbery squishy slightly sweet soft rolls- like the bread the Swiss prefer to toast. The buns the Germans use for their wurst are usually seeded, with a chewy crust & not sweet.
      I notice the British are fond of all things deep fried like most of America.
      Perhaps American cuisine is more influenced by the British than we realize?

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    5. Oops! this should read-
      Food from the American Southeast (which was originally settled by the British) is highly sweetened also.

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    6. one of my biggest culinary culture shock when fresh off the plane in India was bread. It goes without even an ounce of a surprise that yeast bread in India is something the british brought with them. I really rarely bought that "toast bread" in Switzerland, unless I was really planning to eat toasts that is. Or make some canape for a party.
      And there I was in a country that had ONLY that type of bread, and yes most of the time it was sweet. It took me a while to figure out which one was the non sweet type and according to DH much harder to find in South India than in the North so this is a lesson we pretty much had to learn together after way too many sandwiches and bread omlettes made with sickly sweet bread that is.

      It took years for me to find a bread that had a crust, I think the first time I saw it in a store was in 2008 and it was way on its way to already be stale bread when I bought it. I tried making my own at home before that, but I found out that the yeast sold in store was of very poor quality back in those days. I only really started baking bread after stocking up on a massive amount of yeast packets from Switzerland in 2008.

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  2. Anonymous8:44 AM

    Great post! Please share a recipe for one of the sponge cakes that you make.
    Susan

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    1. Thanks, will do that in the future.
      The base recipe however is the one I gave. take as many eggs as you want and weight them. then add the exact same weight of flour, butter and sugar plus all the extras you want. The more eggs the more batter you end up getting.
      If I do a carrot cake, I usually cut the flour amount in half and complete it with ground almond, and because I use fresh grated carrots I reduce the amount of butter a little too because it will be moist just the same, if I do a simple chocolate sponge I add cocoa to the recipe but keep the original ratio intact. If I add banana purée to it I cut some of the butter and some of the sugar out.

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  3. Anonymous9:58 AM

    These fruits and vegetables these days are adulterated. Recently, I saw a news programme on Zee News that most vegetables these days are grown on the sides of drains or highly polluted rivers. Naturally, all kinds of chemicals and filth goes into it. Vegetables are also washed in drain water. The experts made it clear on the progamme that those fruits and vegetables which appear fresh and shiny or big are the ones that are adulterated. Wax is used for making apples shiny and oil is used for vegetables. Take a shiny apple and scratch with you nail, the wax comes off. The more dry or unattractive a fruit/vegetable is, it is more likely to be natural so go for small or dry unattractive looking fruits/vegetables. Some vegetables also have dye coating on them. Quiet an eye opener. Here s a link to the programme

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKg784fkHUw

    However, considering the fact that the air around us so polluted, we are already inhaling a lot of pollution. It is said that we all have "smoker's lung" in spite of not smoking a single cigarette in our lilfe. Our children are already suffering from respiratory diseases and asthma is the single most common disease among children now in cities.

    apple

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    1. As you said, the air we breathe is nasty, so it only makes sense that what we eat is tainted too. I try to make the choice of buying organic and local whenever I can. I can't do it for everything, but I'd rather encourage a trend of using less pesticide and fertiliser even if it is not fully organic due to the fact the soil will take years to flush the chemicals previously used.

      one thing I noticed though, is that health wise all 3 of us fall sick very rarely. DH and I attributed it to the fact we do consume as many fresh fruits and vegetables as we can, eat nuts and whole food regularly and rather spend more on groceries than on other non essential things. We both noticed that compared to other middle class Indian families of comparable income our grocery bill would be considered high and our food habits lavish. But compared to these very same other families, we rarely ever fall sick at all. the most recent disease to strike our family was my bout of Dengue. This was a mosquito's fault, there is nothing my body could have done to prevent it. Yet, according to my doctor, I recovered incredibly quickly for someone who showed such high numbers on the Dengue test. He was really expecting my platelets to drop much much lower than it did.
      I imagine my being in otherwise excellent health did contribute to that.

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  4. thanks once again Cyn.
    I am trying to get to healthy eating so it works just perfect at this time. :)

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  5. Anonymous7:31 PM

    I absolutely love lemon cake or any plain cake. Americans like call them naked cakes. Frankly speaking there is already a lot of APF and sugar in the cake so I see no reason to make icing unless for special occasions. Even my family prefers cakes without icing.They're nice for tea time as well and not just kids but even for us adults unwinding after a long day at work with a cup of tea and a big slice of cake.
    I also noticed that most Indian kids throw away the icing and eat only the cake at birthday parties. It's common back home just for a 3yo to eat a big slice or even two cupcakes with icing. Most kids here do not have an overly sweet pallette.

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    1. My daughter is not a fan of cake either, she will usually have one bite and be done. One thing I also noticed in India is that they cut very small pieces of cake at birthday parties. They are usually a two or three bite affair, and if one guest wants more it is ok to take a second serving, but it rarely happens.

      I heard from many of my American friends who travelled to Europe that they found the food far less Sweet than in the U.S. Even in big franchises like Mc D, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme. And they were even surprised at how little variants of sweetened juices you will find in the market compared to the 100% fruit juice with no added sugar variant. Some even complained that the juice sold in Switzerland was very tart.all the while my European friends visiting the U.S. complained about the sweetness overload, in everything.

      I myself rarely use sugar at home, I think the only thing I use it for is when making cookies and cake, and I usually keep it down to a minimum if possible. I like cakes and sweets but without an overload of sugar. And I am not. Huge fan of icing :-)

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