Choosing nutritious snacks is just as important as creating healthy meals.
Mandy Sacher, a paediatric nutritionist and feeding consultant, from the Wholesome Child tells us more about how you can ensure you're picking the best snacks for your child.
Snacks are a vital part of your child’s diet.
Little tummies aren’t big enough to get all the food they need from just three meals a day, so healthy snacking plays an important part in filling the gaps.
Stocking up your fridge and pantry with plenty of healthy snack options means you’ll never be stuck when you hear the words “mum, I’m hungry!”
Ideally your child should have five meals daily – three main meals, and morning and afternoon tea.
Try to time snacks so they are not too close to their main meals as it can suppress their appetites.
However, if you ensure their snacks are just as healthy as their meals, it won’t matter as much if they don’t eat all their dinner.
How to read food labels
Buying food for our families has become a minefield.
We have never had so much choice as we do now, but equally, we have probably never felt so confused thanks to clever marketing and advertising of “not-so-healthy” foods.
Get used to looking at the labels on everything you buy and educate yourself about what is going into your family’s bodies.
Remember the ingredients list on labels is ordered according to how much of each ingredient is present in the product.
The ingredient present in the largest amount is listed first.
So for example if sugar is near the top of the ingredients list, the product is probably high in added sugar.
Some things to watch out for:
- Sodium levels: Sodium (contained in salt), can be harmful to little – and big – bodies if eaten in large quantities. Opt for foods that contain less than 120mg/100g.
- Hidden sugars: Sugar comes in many forms and under many different names, including maltodextrin, fructose, dextrose, Mannitol, Maltitol, Dextrin, Sorbitol, fruit juice concentrate, sucrose, glucose, glucose solids, barley malt and high-fructose corn syrup.
- GMO’s: GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms, are organisms that have been genetically engineered, for example corn plants with a gene that makes them resistant to insect attack. The best way to avoid them is to stick to wholesome, organic foods that are as close to nature as possible.
- Preservatives: These help prevent foods from “going off” and are in the 200 range. For example, sodium nitrite (250) and sodium nitrate (251) are found in cured meats and sausages and are believed to be carcinogenic, while preservatives containing sulphur (200-228), which is found in dried fruits, can provoke asthma attacks.
Buying healthy snacks
When buying snacks, use the guidelines above and try to choose foods that have a short ingredients list that is easy to read.
If there are 10+ items listed, many of which are numbers, it’s probably not a good choice!
Its really important to encourage little children to self-feed and to offer them ‘safe’ foods which will not pose a choking hazard, tick all the nutrition boxes and encourage them to self-feed and develop proper oral motor skills.
Some of our favourite store-bought snacks include Little Bellies Baby Puffs and Animal Biscuits and Gingerbread Men – a great alternative to traditional biscuits and conventional puffs which often contain trans fats and added sugar.
These little beauties are all certified organic and the Baby Puffs are Gluten and wheat free, while the two biscuits are made with wholegrains and sweetened naturally with grape juice – perfect special occasion alternatives!
For everyday crackers we love buckwheat, rice or quinoa crackers.
For healthy, nutritious dips, try Pilpel or Organic Indulgence hummus, tzatziki or babaghanoush, and Barambah shredded cheese or Nimbin Natural are great cheeses to try.
Making healthy snacks
If you have a little time, there are plenty of snacks you can stock up on which take just a few minutes to prepare.
Chop up a load of fresh fruit and vegies for a colourful rainbow plate and include dips such as hummus or tzatziki, which you can pop on the table while kids are drawing or playing with their toys.
Freshly baked veggie muffins are fun to make with your little ones.
Or make your own trail mix with goji berries, nuts, cacao nibs and toasted coconut flakes.
And if you’re feeling creative, whip up a batch of delicious homemade muesli bars – try our recipe below.
Hoops and Loops Muesli Bar
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
Makes 10 bars
1 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp oat flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1- Preheat oven to 160C. Line a small baking dish with baking paper.
2- Place oats, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds in a food processor and process until a fine consistency is achieved.
3- Add remaining ingredients except Hoops & Loops and process on a medium setting to form a gooey mixture.
4- Place mixture in the baking dish and press down firmly so that the mixture spreads out evenly around the baking dish.
5- Top with Hoops & Loops and gently press them into the mixture.
6- Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. It will harden as it cools.
7- Cool completely before removing from the baking dish and cutting into bars.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to three months.