Snacks get a bad rap, but this year I have managed to fill my pantry with an arsenal of good choices. As my kids geared up for back to school over the fall my snack mission was find treats that were easy, health conscious, actually taste good, and make my kids feel like I am spoiling them. This was no easy task.
We've been back to school for a few months now and packing snacks can get to be a real pain. I'm a packer — a lunch and snack packer. Some of my peers call it being a glutton for punishment. As other parents fill school lunch accounts with a simple click of a mouse or a signed waiver, I choose to pack for each and every one of the 180 days of the school year.
It feels good to know what my kids are eating, or at least that I'm trying to participate. I am fully cognizant that once they're out the door all sorts of snack and lunch trading debauchery could be going down. But I'm trying. In my snack quest I wanted to make it easier for other moms, dads, and caregivers to try too.
While I sometimes do make my own trail mix and granola bars, it's impossible for this to always be the case, especially if I'm away for work. So it's a must to keep good and fast choices in the house for me, my mom, husband, sister, in-laws or whoever else in the village is helping out to feed my kids.
Remember we're talking about snacks so these are still treats, just better choices from all natural ingredients that keep calories in check, and don't taste like cardboard. Don't worry they're not all from Whole Foods — some are, but I found items in Target, WalMart, and a simple DIY drinkable snack too. From candy to chips and getting the kids in on the act, here is my go-to mom-tested and kid-approved snack line up.
First Greek yogurt now Aussie style! We love Greek yogurt but we found a snazzy new addition to our repertoire from down under. Noosa is just as rich and creamy as Greek yogurt but with a bit more tang and comes in awesome new flavors including our faves — honey, passion fruit and tart cherry. Kids love these as a mid- morning snack with granola or with fruit for dipping and as an after-dinner treat.
Mom: It works for breakfast, lunch or after school on the go because of the resealable packaging. It's almost identical to Greek yogurt in nutrition content but now you can mix it up and give the kids some new flavors.
Kids: Love it because it's as rich and creamy as ice cream and comes in fun flavors.
Everyone loves to snack on chips but finding a baked chip that doesn't taste like cardboard was almost impossible- until now. Way Better Snacks' line up of flavors like Simply Sunny Multigrain, Simply Sweet Potato, Simply Unbeatable Blues and our favorite Sweet Chili Tortilla have all been a hit in our house.
Mom: Loves that it takes the guessing out of grains — they're all baked in — from quinoa to flax seeds. Downside: It's been hard keeping these for the kids since my husband found them!
Kids: Hands down, the kids picked these over any other baked chips and they love them on their own or smashed into a sandwich for some crunch.
The entire Funley brand is based on no preservatives, no trans fats, no high fructose corn syrup. From granola clusters to crackers they have tons of good choices in the snack department. This was the only candy that got Mom's thumbs up.
Mom: These taste as good as any mainstream candy bar but I could actually understand the list of ingredients. The kids loved these so much that they were bragging in school and other moms have been emailing me, "What are these Stix in the Mud?"Another plus — these candies are individually wrapped, making packing snacks easier.
Kids: Satisfies their sweet tooth. They taste delicious — no weird aftertaste or texture, and the taste-testers loved all three flavors — original, peanut butter and caramel.
Juicing is not just for health nuts anymore. For us it's for breakfast or on the go snacks we can drink! NEVER did I think I would say this; I mean really I didn't need one more appliance in my kitchen and yet, we are now fully converted to the world of juice.
Number one reason Mom loves it: the kids can do it.
Number one reason the kids love it: Because they get to do it.
It's a proven fact that kids are more likely to eat what they choose and what they make. Not to mention a juicer is one of the safest items for a tween or teen to use on their own in the kitchen, and for my 8-year-olds I need just be standing by to watch them whip up yummy, frothy juices and smoothies. Our juicer, the HUROM (see our full review here), does both!
The kids think it's cool and watching them sip what they call superhero juice (because it looks like the Hulk and I told them their muscles will grow if they drink it) from green veggies like kale and spinach, I too can't imagine what would be cooler. A green apple, a carrot, handful of kale and a 1/4-inch piece of ginger, a squeeze of lemon juice and you've got a refreshing nutritious snack perfect for filling your water bottles. Just add ice, shake and voila.
I know parents complain about complying with all the allergy regulations schools have in place now, but if you think it's a pain for you imagine those little guys who — because of their allergies — have to sit at a separate lunch table or in a separate room altogether. Allergies including gluten intolerance stink for everyone. There's just no way around it — a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie will not taste as good as a chocolate chip cookie.
But how about a pumpkin cookie or a maple crunch cookie? Well, Lucy's gluten-free cookies are also tree nut free, peanut free, milk and eggs free too. They taste delicious and are the perfect treat for kids to bring to school to celebrate a birthday and every kid gets in on the snacking.
All right, those are my picks for fast and easy snacks! What are yours? What goes into your kids' lunch boxes?
(Image credits: Maureen Petrosky)