This January, we’re focusing on health at The Family Center/La Familia. Many of us have children of our own, and we know what a struggle it can be to encourage young kids to eat healthy. We’ve put together this list of healthy, budget-friendly snacks for kids.
*Disclaimer: It is important to serve age-appropriate snacks to young children to avoid choking hazards. For example, grapes should be cut into pieces until age 4, and popcorn should not be given until age 4. Always prepare foods in safe sizes for your child’s age.
Cottage cheese with fruit or crackers – A bowl of cottage cheese topped with fruit gives kids healthy vitamins and protein. If your kids aren’t into the fruit and cheese combo, try offering cottage cheese as a dip for crackers. You can mix in a little bit of black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and/or chives to make your own “chip dip.”
Scrambled eggs – Scrambled eggs are simple to make, have lots of protein, and are a great foundation for other healthy add-ins. Try throwing in some shredded cheese, ham, and/or cooked veggies.
Hummus with veggies – Lots of grocery stores now carry their own brand of hummus, which saves you money, although you can make your own in bulk for even less. Serve hummus with pita crackers and fresh veggies, like carrots, celery, tomatoes, and broccoli. Some stores even carry chocolate dessert hummus, which is delicious with fresh strawberries.
Celery with peanut butter and raisins (Ants on a Log) – This classic kids’ snack gives them lots of fiber and protein. Peanut butter and raisins can be purchased in bulk and have a long shelf life. To make, spread the concave side of a 3-4 inch piece of celery with peanut butter. Top with a line of raisins “ants.” This is an entertaining snack for picky eaters!
Apples with peanut butter or cinnamon – Slice an apple and serve with a cup of peanut butter for dipping or lightly dust with cinnamon. If your kiddo won’t go for plain cinnamon, mix in a small amount of sugar.
Frozen fruit – Frozen berries, including blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, make a great pop-it-in-your-mouth snack. Freezing the berries adds a unique texture and temperature element that’s exciting to young kids. To make this snack even more interesting, fill each square of an ice cube tray halfway with plain yogurt, put one berry in each square, and freeze.
Popcorn – Plain popcorn, without lots of added butter or salt, is a healthy fiber-rich snack. Kids love to see and hear the kernels pop. If you’re on a budget, buy kernels in bulk instead of pre-packaged popcorn. You can use a regular paper bag, with the open end folded over twice, to pop in the microwave.
Baked potato – Potatoes come in large quantities, are inexpensive, and can last months if stored in a cool, dry place. Baked potatoes are quick to prep, and you can leave them in the oven while you attend to other things. Healthy toppings include cheese with steamed broccoli, cheese with assorted cooked veggies, bacon and avocado, or a dollop of sour cream and some fresh chives.
Frozen grapes – This one is super easy – just throw a bag of fresh grapes in the freezer for a fruity, refreshing snack.
Cheese cubes – Plain cheese cubes are full of protein and calcium. Pair them with fruit or veggies, or serve them on their own.
Oatmeal – Oats are a gluten-free whole grain full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For a sweet take, dress up oatmeal with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Or, make a savory oatmeal by stirring in some shredded cheese, salt, and pepper, and topping with a cooked egg, ham or bacon, and/or cooked veggies.
Dried fruits – Look for bulk dried fruits at the grocery store, which are less expensive and usually have less added sugar than pre-bagged varieties. Watch out for candied fruits, which are a tasty treat but have lots of added sugar. You can also make your own dried fruit in a home oven.
Rice cakes with toppings – Rice cakes are low in calories, but also low in nutrients, so you’ll want to pair them with other foods for a balanced snack. Healthy topping ideas include: peanut butter and sliced banana, guacamole with a pinch of salt, refried beans and salsa, and cream cheese with fresh fruit.
Yogurt with fruit – A bowl of plain yogurt topped with fresh or frozen fruit (or jam) is a low-calorie snack with calcium, protein, and probiotics for healthy digestion. Drizzle some honey or maple syrup on top of the fruit for kids with a sweet tooth.
Whole grain waffles – Whole grain waffles have more fiber and nutrients than regular waffles, with less sugar and unhealthy fats. They make a great base for all kinds of toppings, including peanut butter with banana slices, fresh fruit with a drizzle of honey, almond butter and sliced apples, or a cooked egg with avocado and salsa.
Frozen bananas dipped in chocolate – To make, cut peeled bananas in half. Put a popsicle stick in one end, and dip the other in melted chocolate. Lay the bananas on a plate or baking sheet with parchment paper, and freeze. Dark, minimally processed chocolates are a healthy choice. Avoid milk chocolates, chocolate chips, and Hershey’s dark chocolate, which have lots of added sugar and saturated and trans fats.
Cheese quesadilla with beans – A cheese quesadilla cooked in a nonstick pan or with a little bit of olive oil is a filling snack full of calcium and protein. Add black or refried beans for extra protein and fiber, and/or fresh corn for even more fiber. Serve with salsa or fresh guacamole.
Smoothies – Homemade smoothies can be a very healthy snack. Use a base like almond milk or plain yogurt and add in lots of fresh or frozen fruit. Berries and bananas are antioxidant-rich and lower in sugar than tropical fruits. You can even combine bananas and peanut butter and add in cinnamon or oatmeal for a richer smoothie.
String cheese – Plain cheese is a great source of protein and calcium, and the fun of peeling string cheese entices picky eaters.
Unsweetened applesauce – Applesauce contains antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. Be wary of flavored applesauce, which is often sweetened with lots of added sugar.
We hope you and your little ones enjoy these simple, healthy snacks!
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