After reading the book, Serve God, Save the Planet (Amazon), last year my husband has been on a crusade to eliminate red dye from our home. The FDA is starting to take a closer look at food dye standards as well. I am totally on board (Except when we are nearing meltdown mode in the middle of the zoo. Those little candy vending machines by the elephant house were an inspired addition.) as I am on a quest to move our family toward a diet that emphasizes real food and cuts back on processed junk. As Amanda Hesser puts it in Cooking for Mr. Latte, “I avoid eating food whose ingredients I can’t picture in my head.” I like this definition because it includes the ingredients I truly adore like sugar and cream and butter and cheese.
While my little family is not quite to the point of avoiding junk food altogether — my children still eat cereal with four-syllable ingredients, my husband has never met a hot dog he didn’t like, and I have no self-control when I get my hands on a package of Keebler Grasshopper cookies — we are focused on eating real food as much as possible. It’s definitely not perfect, but for now it’s a happy mix that works for us.
I think eating real food is the trickiest in the snack department. Ugh. Snacks are the bane of my existence. If you have kids, you know the drill: approximately 15 minutes after you have cleaned up one meal, they are already begging for a… snack. In all fairness, though, I guess my husband and I have been guilty of this way before the miniature people invaded our home. We are snackers. And a snacker without a plan is not a good combination.
Here are a few ideas that have worked well in our home:
:: Never leave home without food & water. Yep, survival skills 101… even if you’re just trying to survive a morning of running errands. Sometimes I feel like a very large squirrel. I have nuts tucked into car’s glove box and animal crackers in my purse and small bags of Cheerios in my coat pockets. A little pre-planning goes a long way, though. Those snacky impulse buys are grocery budget killers.
:: Buy in bulk/on sale and create your own snack packs. Forget those pre-packaged containers of carrot sticks or overpriced snack-sized bags of chips. You can do that for a fraction of the cost. If you are busy, try spending some time on Sunday night slicing fruit & vegetables or bagging up cheese & crackers into smaller portions for the upcoming week. That way, your fridge is stocked with healthy snack options you can grab in a hurry. And your wallet doesn’t take the hit.
:: Add snack ideas to your menu plan and grocery list. Don’t you hate going grocery shopping only to come home and there’s “nothing to eat”? I am finding I have to be much more intentional about this area, or I am quickly surrounded by natives suffering from LBSCBDO. Whether you buy fruit snacks of dry your own fruit leather, make a plan to keep your family and your finances on track.
:: Set a snack time. In our home it’s around 10:30am, 3pm, and of course after the kids are in bed. I know it’s not rocket science, but this small change has kept me from feeling like I never leave the kitchen. It also helps to ensure my kids are actually hungry when meal time rolls around.
:: Keep a running snack list in the kitchen. As a sure sign of how lame and uncreative I am when it comes to snacks, I actually have a list of ideas taped to the inside of one of my kitchen cabinets. It may sound silly, but it (often) keeps me from grabbing a handful of chocolate chips or giving my kids fistfuls of dry cereal every five minutes. Removing the guesswork is also a lifesaver when life is too crazy for real meals (moving or remodeling, new baby, big deadline, etc).
My healthy-ish snack list looks something like this:
- Hummus with crackers & vegetables
- Chips & salsa or guacamole
- Fresh fruit & cottage cheese
- Yogurt, granola, & fruit parfaits
- Apples & cheese slices or PB
- Vegetables & dip
- “Ants on a Log” (variation: bananas & chocolate chips)
- Frozen grapes or berries
- Crackers or pretzels with PB or Nutella
- Homemade Granola Bars
- Homemade Graham Crackers
- Frozen yogurt or popsicles
- Roasted almonds or cashews
- Ham & Cheese Roll-ups: spread ham with cream cheese & roll up
- Cinnamon-sugar or PB&J tortilla roll-ups
- Trail mix
- Perfect Popcorn
- Cinnamon Graham Popcorn : seriously addicting
- Saltines or graham crackers & milk
- Dried fruit
- Pumpkin muffins or Banana Bread
- Cinnamon toast & applesauce
- String cheese
- Fruit & yogurt smoothies
Ok, these recipes don’t technically make the “healthy” cut, but all of the ingredients are real. For the love of butter & cream, I am planning to make these in the very near future:
Leave a comment! What would you add to the list? How do you keep your family well-fed in between meals [without losing your mind]?