Fall is approaching which means it's goodbye summer and hello back-to-school season! If you're a parent who is looking for fun and healthy back to school snacks for your kids to help kick off the school year, you’ll want to keep reading.
Figuring out the right food for your kids that they'll want to eat is the great parental unifier - even royals have to do it – and many of the editors at HELLO! Online are moms and dads, too – including myself! So I asked the parents on the team to tell me what their snack essentials are when it comes to their kids heading back to class, and discovered some great tips and must-have products to make life easier during one of the most hectic times of the year.
Let's just say that for all of us, the struggle is real! "As a mom-of-two, I know how hungry children are when they come home from school so it's important to have those tasty but nutritious snacks ready," says HELLO! Online's Parenting Editor Sophie Hamilton.
"Both kids and parents want quick and easy snacks to fit in with busy schedules - a piece of fresh or some dried fruit is a good choice, hummus and chopped veggie sticks, or homemade flapjacks or banana bread as a treat. A staple in our house is a plate of crackers, cheese and cut up apple, and wraps are both filling and easy.”
As for mom-of-one Carla Challis, HELLO!'s Shopping Partnerships Editor, her four-year-old is visibly offended by anything healthy - so she sneaks in nutrition with dried fruit snacks. "When my daughter turned three, she changed from eating anything and everything to having a problem if there's a lone vegetable on her plate. Even fruit offends her, so I rely on dried fruit snacks to help sneak in a little nutrition where possible."
Why healthy snacks are important - and how to get kids to eat them
I asked How to Feed Your Family author Charlotte Stirling-Reed, who is also a Weaning Expert for celebrity-loved children's product brand Stokke, for her thoughts on healthy snacks for kids – and why it's so important for a child's well being.
"Often children need topping up on energy and nutrients between meals. This is especially likely to be true if they are using a lot of energy at school with play, learning and lots of concentrating," she advises. "When it comes to snacks, it’s ideal that they are nutrient dense options – meaning that they contain plenty of nutrients per bite to allow your little ones to top up on important nutrients. Kids have little tummies and high nutrient needs so we need to use snack opportunities to offer healthy, nutrient packed options."
But as a mom myself, I also wanted to know: How can a parent balance the nutrition their child needs with what kids will actually eat?
"It’s always a challenge," says the nutrition expert. "The best thing you can do is to offer balanced meals to your toddler and also role model eating a balance yourself. You can’t FORCE your child to eat anything you offer them – and trying to do so is likely to have the opposite effect."
Charlotte suggests balanced and kid-friendly snack options like energy balls, falafel bites, mini pita pizzas, or fruits like blueberries, cherries or peaches. "Try to remember that, 'You decide what goes on their plate and they decide how much of it they eat!'. Then, role-modeling, offering a balance at each meal and making mealtimes pressure-free and enjoyable are going to be the best ways to help your little one learn how to enjoy, and accept, a variety foods in the long run."
Healthy snack hack must-haves
Now that you're armed with the knowledge of what's best for kids when it comes to healthy back to school snacks, the next question is: what can make healthy snack prep easier?
Well, HELLO! Editors (and moms) are coming to the rescue with our favorites, from quirky gadgets and containers you may not have even known existed to healthy ready-made snacks.
Healthy back to school snack ideas
Preparing exciting snacks doesn’t have to be difficult and you certainly can't go wrong with the basics. Get inspired by our round-up of simple snacks that are not only nutritious but yummy too – the perfect fuel for any school day.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Fruits and vegetables are essential snack items, although it can sometimes be difficult to encourage fussy eaters to have their five a day. Try carrot sticks or cucumber slices served with a dip like hummus or cottage cheese for a balanced, filling snack, or make a colorful fruit salad with berries, apples and mandarin slices packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
A healthy snack can also be a source of protein. Some protein-packed snack ideas include a hard-boiled egg, which they could eat with cherry tomatoes, or a small piece of cheese. Snack cheeses like string cheese will provide them both with protein and calcium, a vital mineral to support their growth.
You could boost your child's calcium quota with a low-fat and low sugar yogurt or Greek yogurt served with berries.
APPLES WITH PEANUT BUTTER
You can't beat this classic combination. Adding peanut butter is a great way to make a plain piece of fruit feel fresh and exciting. Apples are a good source of fiber, while peanut butter is rich in protein and healthy fats – meaning your kids will stay fuller for longer and won't be begging you for dinner the second they come though the door!
HARD BOILED EGGS
The humble boiled egg is the perfect school snack; easy to prep in advance, they will also stay fresh if you store them in the fridge. Eggs are rich in Vitamin D and B12, as well as two lesser-known nutrients – Choline, which helps brain development, and Lutein, which protects the eyes.
HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVES TO CHIPS
If your little one loves potato chips, trade in store-bought packets for homemade plain popcorn or plain rice cakes, which you could add your own toppings to for variety.
Alternatively, you could try making your own sweet potato chips at home; simply thinly slice a sweet potato and roast in olive oil until crispy. This healthier, homemade 'chip' is free from salt and a rich source of vitamins A, C and potassium.
MINI BLUEBERRY PANCAKES
These delicious three-ingredient fruity pancakes make for the perfect lunchtime treat - and they're so simple to make! All you need is mashed banana, flour and blueberries for this healthy treat that will help curb your little one's sugar cravings without the need for unhealthy candy or chocolate. They're freezable too, which makes them ideal for busy parents on tight schedules.
Ready, set, snack!
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