By the end of last year, I had developed some snacking habits that, for me, were less than healthy. A lot of toast or bread in the afternoons; a bit more Nutella than might be recommended; too much sugar, which left me feeling tired and ravenous by dinner. This year I decided to clean up my afternoon snack routine.
But I realized something that made me laugh: for me, a spread of healthy snacks looks a lot like a toddler's high chair tray.
I don't believe there's anything inherently wrong with bread or Nutella or cookies in the afternoon, mind you. I think healthy eating should be judged first and foremost by how it makes us feel, and I just wasn't feeling satisfied or energized through my afternoons. I resolved to stock my pantry with snacks that were a little more energy-dense and nutritious.
Now I know when I'm eating snacks that keep me energetic through the afternoon because they all look like something you might find just before nap time in a preschool:
- Apple slices
- Halved bananas, sometimes with peanut butter
- Cubes of cheddar cheese
- Clementine segments
- Celery and cucumber with hummus
- Plain yogurt with fruit and honey
- Pistachios or cashews
- Handful of granola or cereal
I don't have kids, but I am the oldest child in a large family, and I've cut up more cheese cubes and bananas than I care to count, so I know what toddler snack time looks like. I eat more peanut butter than might be found in a school these days, given the prevalence of peanut allergies — but that aside, doesn't my snack lineup look like what you'd find on a toddler's tray?
This is also a longstanding joke between my sister and myself. "I eat like a three-year-old," we both say, and there's a good reason that this type of snacking keeps us both fueled and more energetic: making up a snack plate that looks like something a little kid would eat is an easy way to focus on whole foods and fruits and vegetables. I probably wouldn't feed a toddler cupcakes or chips every afternoon, so why would I feed myself that way?
Of course, toddlers don't have a monopoly on fruits and vegetables, and I'm all for more sophisticated snacks, when I have time to make them. But thinking of my plate like a toddler's snack table helps me judge what to snack on in the afternoons, and what to leave for a special treat.
Now excuse me while I go eat some ants-on-a-log. I'd love to hear your own favorite toddler-inspired snacks!
(Image credits: Faith Durand; Emily Han)