Nutritious, tasty, and convenient snacks for kids on the go

Disclaimer: This post was developed in sponsored partnership with IMAG!NE, however, as always opinions are my own.

Being on-the-run is part of a mother’s everyday routine and even part of the job description. Mom: “A selfless and loving human being who must be prepared at all times for unexpected situations and is expected to be in multiple places at once.”  A key lesson I’ve learned as a mom and registered dietitian is to be prepared with nutritious and portable snacks wherever we go. One of the top questions I receive from moms is “What types of snacks can I give my kids when I’m traveling or on the go?” As a mom, I totally understand what pack and go means. I’m giving you some ideas on snacks for kids that are a good source of protein or calcium, convenient and easy to carry.  When life gets complicated, and you are stuck in traffic or need ideas for afterschool or a play date, below you will find some inspiration.   

Why snacks matter

Snacks form an essential part of a child’s nutrition and represent about a third of a child’s calorie intake Kids have small stomachs, so it’s not always possible to meet all of their nutrition demands with just three meals. Snacks help children stay focused and energized in school and throughout the day. Moreover, snacks allow us parents to introduce new flavors and ingredients into our child’s daily nutrition. Finding snack options that we feel good about feeding our children is a must because then we know we are helping our child stay fueled with the most balanced food options!

Healthy snacks for kids

Convenience is a must

The reality of being a mom is that you need convenient snack options that can be easy to pack in your bag. You are probably thinking that as a dietitian I would never give my kids crackers or so-called “processed snacks,” right?  Well, far from it. Not all crackers and snacks are created equal. Many of the boxed snacks can be an important source of fiber, whole grains and minerals like iron and calcium. Just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it lacks nutritional value. It’s a matter of knowing what to look for and choosing nutrient dense options. Of course, I’m a big advocate for fresh fruits and veggies in all meals including snacks. However, when you are traveling or on the go, you need options that are convenient and good for you. Fortunately, these snack options I mention next meet all those requirements: nutritious, a good source of nutrients like protein or calcium, tasty and portable.

Tasty snacks for kids

Is it snack time yet?

Snacks are meant to be spaced out 2-3 hours after a meal and include wholesome ingredients like yogurt, whole grains, cheese, etc. to satisfy your child’s hunger. Younger kids might need 1-2 snacks a day while older kids and teens might require 3 snacks a day. So, while snacks are important, remember, snacks are meant to supplement a child’s nutrition, not replace a meal.

What to look for in a snack

I recommend snacks that include nutrients and/or food groups typically lacking in kid’s diets.  Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, calcium is a “shortfall nutrient” and whole grains are included as a food group to encourage.  Additionally, protein intake from the dairy food group is especially lacking in children 4-13. A good rule of thumb is to include a little protein or “good” fat in every snack to help keep your kids going and avoid the constant “I’m hungry” plea. Add fruit, a veggie, and/or a whole grain, and you have a balanced mini meal.

Check out my favorite nutritious and portable snacks that will help keep kids’ hunger at bay.

IMAGINE revised picture 3

 

  • IMAG!NE snacks – Made from real foods like yogurt or cheese as the first ingredient, the new snack line comes in two varieties that are both Non-GMO Project Verified and contain no artificial colors or flavors. Not your typical cracker by any means, these yummy crisps offer nutrients like calcium or protein that you don’t find in many conventional crackers. IMAG!NE Cheese Stars provide a good source of protein with 6 grams per serving, almost the same as 1 egg or 1 ounce of lean protein. IMAG!NE Yogurt Crisps provide 4 grams of protein plus they contain 8 grams of whole grains. I know my daughter loves to play with her food and as a pediatric dietitian, I highly encourage kids to use their five senses to get to know a new food.  Kids need to see, feel, touch, taste and even get messy with food. That is why I love IMAG!NE crisps because they come in attractive star-shapes which make it fun to eat and can spark your kid’s imagination.  A kid and mom approved snack!
  • Sunflower seedsA seed rather than a tree nut, which makes this an excellent option to take to a nut-free school.  Sunflower seeds are high in protein, unsaturated fats, magnesium, and fiber.  Pairing them with an easy to carry fruit like a tangerine can help keep your kids going.
  • Almond butter and carrots- Simple enough to carry, this option is not only high in fiber but also a good source of protein and healthy fats like omega 6. Plus, it’s a great way to add veggies to your kid’s diet.
  • Edamame- Usually found in Asian restaurants, edamame comes in both dry form and fresh pods which need to be steamed and can be served cold or hot. For younger kids, they can be so fun to play with. High in iron, vitamin C, and is a complete source of protein, making it an excellent alternative for vegetarian families.
  • Trail mix- Tasty, portable, non-perishable, and nutritious. This is a very easy snack to carry anywhere you go. You can even make these at home by mixing different nuts of your choice along with a variety of dried fruit and other toppings. I recommend you try pistachios, cranberries, sesame seeds, and dried blueberries.
  • Walnuts and dark chocolateThe perfect mix of sweet and salty. Walnuts are high in protein, vitamin E and high in plant-based omega 3. A handful of nuts is a good portion for kids; aim to use pre-packaged mini chocolates to help avoid large portions. This snack will hit your kid’s sweet spot.

 

Life as a mom is a true balancing act. The number one priority for any mother is to provide the best possible nutrition for their children without compromising taste. My philosophy as a dietitian and mother is simple: Life is about balance. Snacks should be nutritious, wholesome and delicious.  You need snack options that are convenient and practical but also provide balanced nutrition to fuel growing bodies. Fortunately, no matter how busy life gets, these snack options have you covered.

 

The Ultimate Carb-Counting Guide for Halloween

Yes, your child with type 1 can eat candy! You heard it right.  For parents and kids with type 1 diabetes, Halloween can be a scary time (no pun intended). Not because of the costumes or haunted houses, but because it could be a day of high blood sugars and unexpected blood sugar control.

As a certified diabetes educator who works with children and a person with type 1 myself, I think it’s important for kids to feel “normal” on this day.  That being said, “Normal” does not mean children get to eat the entire bucket of candy, just because they are kids. NO, it means children can enjoy a few treats in moderation.  If you are planning to go trick or treating with your child, consider this:

  • Always supervise and safe check candy before allowing children to eat it

  • Trade in candy for toys or money. There is no better incentive for an older kid than money. 

  • Allow a maximum number of candy, choose 10-20 candies total. The rest can be donated to local dentist office or even to US troops.

  • Give candy as part of a meal that way you can include the carbs in your total insulin calculation.

  • Avoid giving candy in between meals as it can interfere with not only hunger but cause spikes in blood glucose

So now that you’ve establish some rules regarding Halloween, now what?

I don’t know about you, but carb counting is hard.  This becomes even more challenging with bite size candy because they might NOT include nutrition labels.  A recent article by USA today, surveyed more than 40,000 people and mapped the top Halloween treats by state.  So, we decided to take this list and adapt it to include the carbohydrate amounts of the favorite candy by state.  No matter where you live, you are sure to find the carbs of the treats you love.

carb-counting-guide-halloween

  • Alabama- Airheads= (1 mini airhead= 11g carbs)
  • Alaska-Snickers = (1 fun size= 10g)
  • Arizona- Toblerone = (mini=7g)
  • Arkansas- Skittles = (Mini Pack= 13g)
  • California- Lifesavers= (4 pieces= 16g)
  • Colorado- Milkyway= (1 miniature=6g)
  • Connecticut- Reses Peanut Butter Cups= (5 mini= 26g; 1 cup= 12g)
  • Delaware- 3 Musketeers= (1 fun size= 12g)
  • Florida- Nestle Crunch Bar= 1 fun size=7g)
  • Georgia- Pixie Stick (1 straw=2g)
  • Hawaii-100 grand bar= (1 fun size 8g)
  • Idaho- Butterfinger= (1 bite size 5g; 1 fun size=14g)
  • Illinois- Snickers = (1 fun size= 10g)
  • Indiana- Reese’s Pieces= (50 pieces= 23g)
  • Iowa- Twix= (Fun size=10g)
  • Kansas- Twizzlers (One piece=8g; Mini=11g)
  • Kentucky- Whoopers (8 pieces=15g)
  • Louisiana- Swedish Fish (1 pack= 16g)
  • Maine- Starburst (2 chews=8.5g)
  • Maryland- Almond Joy (Snack size= 10g)
  • Massachusetts- Starburst (2 chews=8.5g)
  • Michigan- M&M (Fun size= 12g)
  • Minnesota- 100 grand bar= (1 fun size 8g)
  • Mississippi- Hershey’s Kisses (one piece=2g)
  • Missouri- Hershey’s Kisses (one piece=2g)
  • Montana- Kit Kat Bar (fun size= 10g)
  • Nebraska- Skittles (mini pack= 13g)
  • Nevada- Jolly Ranchers (One piece=6g)
  • New Hampshire- Tootsie Roll (1 midgee= 7g)
  • New Jersey- Sour Patch Kids (1 pack= 16g)
  • New Mexico- 3 Musketeers (1 fun size= 12g)
  • New York- Sweet Tart Mini pack (5 packs=13g)
  • North Carolina- Butterfinger= (1 bite size 5g; 1 fun size=14g)
  • Ohio- Milky Way Mini- (1 mini=5g)
  • Oklahoma- M&M (Fun size= 12g)
  • Oregon- Candy Corn (15 pieces= 15g)
  • Pennsylvania- Swedish Fish (1 pack= 16g)
  • Rhode Island- Reses Peanut Butter Cups= (5 mini= 26g; 1 cup= 12g)
  • South Carolina- Candy Corn (15 pieces= 15g)
  • South Dakoda- Laffy taffy (1 piece= 6g)
  • Tennessee- Candy Corn (15 pieces= 15g)
  • Texas- Candy Corn (15 pieces= 15g)
  • Utah- Nerds (small box= 14g)
  • Vermont- Almond Joy (mini=8, snack size=10g)
  • Virginia- Reese’s Pieces= (50 pieces= 23g)
  • Washington-Airheads (mini=11g)
  • West Virginia- Oreos (1 oreo=6g)
  • Wisconsin- Laffy taffy (1 piece= 6g)
  • Wyoming-Candy Corn (15 pieces= 15g)
  • District of Columbia- Twix (fun size=10g, mini=7g)

If you didn’t find your favorite candy, you can always check out these other great carb-counting resources found in the American Diabetes Association and JDRF websites

As with everything in life, it comes down to balance and moderation.  Diabetes success  is 80% planning and 20% adapting for the unexpected.  Halloween does not need to be a scary time for your family.  Instead, establish some rules, plan in advance, make sure to count carbs and yes enjoy a chocolate or two!

How to make the perfect lunchbox in 5 steps

It’s back to school season! That means your kids go back to a routine which includes packing school lunch.  In August we celebrate #kidseatrightmonth which focuses on healthy eating for children and the entire family.  Most of us think that homemade lunches are inherently healthier and superior quality than school lunches.  However, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found just the opposite: packed lunches had fewer fruits and vegetables, more fat, sodium and calories. In fact, many of these lunches included chips, desserts and sweetened beverages.

This school year TEACH your kids how to pack a healthy lunchbox. Kids who are involved in making their own lunch are more likely to eat it, makes sense! Follow these 5 easy steps and learn how to pack an All-Star school lunch:

1. Start with Whole Grains:  Most of us think school lunches and we think of boring sandwiches. Go outside the box and think of a de-constructed sandwich or even picnic style by including crackers or whole grain chips. Include high fiber grains such as:

  • Whole Wheat Pita Bread
  • Multigrain English Muffin
  • High Fiber Cereal
  • Whole Wheat Waffles
  • Tortilla Chips

2. Include a Protein: Protein is key to include in your kids lunch boxes because it helps curve appetite and lessen the sense of hunger most kids feel after school. Plus, foods high in protein help with muscle and bone growth. Consider adding non-animal based proteins at least once a week such as legumes, nuts or tofu.  Try these options as well: 

  • Salmon patties
  • Hummus or Bean dip
  • Cheese string
  • Mozzarella balls
  • Tuna Sandwich
  • Ham and Cheese rolls

3. Add a Fruit:   Nobody likes to eat a mushy banana! Instead include fruit that is both easy to grab and eat. Many kids don’t have a lot of time to eat.  So, including fruit in small pieces will save time and ensure your kids actually eat it. Dried fruit is a good alternative because its easy to carry and kids can eat it as an after school snack. Good options include:

  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Dried apricots
  • Applesauce
  • Tangerine
  • Apple slices.

healthy-lunches

4. Don’t forget the Veggies: Many parent’s stress or forget the vegetables.  Veggies are so important to include in your child’s lunchbox because they are loaded with fiber, water and vital vitamins. Children are constantly growing and constantly hungry.  The fiber and water in vegetables will help children feel fuller longer. If your child is not a fan of veggies, start first by introducing them at home before you introduce them in the lunchbox.  Try spicing up the flavor by adding a dip like hummus, yogurt, or low fat ranch.  Make sure to include finger food veggies that are easy to grab and won’t create a lot of mess. Try these finger food veggies:

  • Baby carrots with hummus
  • Celery sticks with nut butter (sunflower/cashew butter)
  • Red peppers with yogurt dip
  • Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella sticks

5. Make it special by adding a fun food. Yes, school lunches can be fun! Add a special food that your kids enjoy a few times a week. I firmly believe in balance, so including a healthy treat once in a while will not be the end of the world.  Instead,you will teach your children from an early age the importance of balance and enjoying food.   Try these ideas:

One Mini dark chocolate

  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate covered almonds
  • Graham crackers

Wishing everyone a healthy start of the school year!  Help your child reach his/her full potential by ensuring they receive a healthy lunchbox.