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, Maple Cluster 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
- Sweet & Salty Roasted Nuts
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]?
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