It is no surprise that children love eating with their hands and assembling their food. Heck, this is even fun for adults! Why do you think Super Bowl parties are so fun? Unfortunately, the go-to foods in this category can be highly processed, rich in sodium, and high in unhealthy fats.
Problem: If your child turns to chips, dips, crackers, and spreads as a typical snack, these foods may be fried in a less-than-healthy oil, which can be nutritionally problematic, especially when consumed in a larger quantity. In addition, the ease of chipping and dipping or scooping and spreading can turn an afternoon snack into a full-on graze. This can ruin meal routines for kids and, more importantly, develop a habit of mindless eating.
Solution: Have an assembly of spreads and stackers that children can make using fruits, veggies, and healthier dor dips. Cut a variety of base foods. For example, make up a plate of hearty tomatoes (like beefsteak tomatoes) and crunchy apple slices (cut the entire width of the fruit into discs), or carrot disks (they are larger and more suitable for topping if you cut the carrot on an angle to make elongated ovals). You just need something substantial enough to serve as a “plate” for your toppings. Your son or daughter may already have a healthy dipping food at home that would make a great topper, but if you can’t keep them away from the Cheez Whiz, put out bowls of cottage cheese, hummus, and guacamole. Finally, put out a selection of small cheese slices, sliced almonds (for older children only, as this can be a choking hazard), and even something sweet like dried cranberries or raisins.
Buying Tip: As always, be sure to check the ingredients on your dips. All the options offered should have a limited ingredient list. If you see words you can’t pronounce, stay away. The fresher, the better! So, play around with making your own dips and spreads!
- A savory snack. Try beefsteak tomato, a dollop of hummus, and top with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Cut tomatoes only as needed.
- A snack with a kick. If your child prefers something with a kick, try beefsteak tomato or carrot disk, a dollop of guacamole, and top it with a slice of pepper jack cheese. Attempt your own guacamole if you are feeling adventurous. The ingredients are simple and you can guarantee freshness!
- Something sweet. For a sweeter snack, try apple sliced in sturdy disk shapes, top with low-fat cottage cheese, and sprinkle with sliced almonds and/or dried cranberries.