As busy parents, it’s sometimes too easy to reach for crisps or sweets every time hunger strikes, but such snacks are generally devoid of nutrition, leading to sugar highs (and lows), not to mention hungry children shortly afterwards. Here are a few more wholesome ideas, with an element of fun included, to keep your little ones amused and satisfied. What’s more, they all take less than five minutes to prepare.
It’s often the case that children will reject a perfectly good smoothie but lap it up several hours later when reintroduced to them as a frozen lolly. Don’t question the logic, embrace it and try our tropical popsicles. These are free of both dairy and refined sugar, but full of flavour and nutrients from the fresh fruit and coconut milk. Coconut milk is high in fat, and in one fatty acid in particular – lauric acid. This acts as an antiviral and antibacterial in the body and may help protect against infections and viruses.
What you need
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 ripe mango
- 400g can of full-fat coconut milk
- Peel the fruit, remove the mango stone and blend the fruit with the coconut milk in a food processor until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into popsicle moulds and freeze overnight.
Makes approximately 4 popsicles, depending on the size of your moulds.
Variations: Try blending 200g of whole, plain, unsweetened yoghurt with a cup of blueberries, raspberries or strawberries.
Most children can’t resist a cone of ice-cream or an opportunity to sprinkle, so at least try to make one of these healthy! Rather than rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, offer them bowls of nutritious ingredients such as chia seeds. With around 40 per cent of their body weight in fibre, chia seeds are also high in protein and prized for their ability to provide sustainable energy.
Children seem to love fruits in their frozen form, perhaps because when the fructose in fruit freezes it tastes a little like sorbet. Frozen berries are available in most supermarkets, but you can also try freezing grapes and pomegranate seeds at home. As well as making a straightforward snack after school, frozen fruits are a fun alternative to ice cubes in fruity drinks.
What you need
- 1 pomegranate
- 1 bunch grapes
- Ziplock bags
- Wash and dry the fruit well, and then slice the grapes in half to avoid a choking hazard.
- Simply place the grapes and pomegranate seeds into ziplock bags and freeze.
Presentation is everything when it comes to feeding your children but rather than fancy, food just needs to be fun and colourful. For example, it’s amazing how many more cherry tomatoes kids will consume if they are served in pretty cup case cases! You can also use interesting cutters to make mundane sandwiches come alive, or try our bagel snake open sandwich for a weekend lunch.
What you need
- 1 bagel
- 25g butter
- 100g sustainably sourced tuna
- 1 dessertspoon mayonnaise
- 1 cherry tomato
- ¼ cucumber
- 1 spring onion
- Slice the bagel in half and toast it. Butter it then cut each half into a semicircle and arrange end to end in the shape of a snake on a plate or chopping board.
- Drain the can of tuna and mix it with the mayonnaise. Pile it onto each bagel segment.
- Slice the cherry tomato in half to act as eyes and place them on the far right segment. Slice up the cucumber and place on top of the tuna on the body of the snake. Cut the spring onion into strips and position as a tongue.
- Serve it to your children and pray they appreciate all the effort that went into making it!
Ants on logs
This is a fun and healthy snack for playdates or birthday parties where you fill celery halves with cream cheese or nut butter. We use a variety of fillings, including almond butter, which compared to peanut butter contains more than double the amount of vitamin E, a powerful immunity booster. Almonds are also a rich source of antioxidants. The fun part comes from the ‘ants’, for which we use raisins, but it you want fiery red ants, try goji berries, which are high in vitamin A, C and iron, as well as protein and fibre. Don’t discard the celery leaves as they will form the perfect grass bed for your logs.
What you need
- 1 pack of celery
- 4 tbsp cream cheese
- 4 tbsp nut butter (peanut, almond or cashew)
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup goji berries
- Wash the celery well and extract the heart, which is made up of the inner stems. (The outer stems are tougher but can be kept for other dishes, such as stir fries.)
- Trim the leaves off the top and layer them to form a grass bed for your logs.
- Cut the celery stems into pieces about 10cm long and fill each one with either cream cheese or nut butter.
- Decorate each filled stem with raisins and/or goji berries.
Serves 8 for a playdate.
Chocolate energy balls
A great snack for older children on the go, these are especially good for those requiring an extra energy boost after sporting activities. Make a batch at the weekend and store them in an airtight container in the fridge, then just pop them into packed lunches or sports bags throughout the week. Feel free to vary the ingredients below with the nuts, fruits and seeds that your child likes. Dried apricots, raisins and prunes also work well.
What you need
- ¼ cup pitted dates
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- ¼ cup goji berries
- 1 tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder
- ¼ cup sesame or chia seeds
- Place the pitted dates, desiccated coconut, goji berries and cacao powder into the food processor and blend. Once it is like putty, roll it into balls.
- Scatter the sesame or chia seeds onto a plate then roll each ball in them so they stick. Alternatively, roll in more cacao powder.
Makes around 10 balls.
Nutritional yeast popcorn
Few kids can resist popcorn, which makes it the ideal vehicle to transport wholesome ingredients into their growing bodies. Nutritional yeast can be found in health food stores and is a fabulous source of complex B vitamins as well as protein, providing all nine amino acids that the body cannot produce. It has a rich cheesy flavour which, when combined with butter or oil, makes a silky coating for cheesy popcorn. My kids and husband are addicted to this so I often make it for packed lunches, always reserving a little to go with pre-dinner drinks!
What you need
- ½ cup popcorn
- 1 tbsp oil
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Dash of tamari or soy sauce
- Heat oil in a large frying pan, add popcorn kernels and cover. Shake the pan occasionally until the kernels are popped.
- Remove the popped corn from the pan and add butter to the warm pan. Once it has melted, stir in the nutritional yeast until there are no lumps and you have a silky consistency. If it appears paste-like in any way, add more butter.
- Transfer your popped corn back to the pan and coat in the mixture. Add a dash of tamari or soy sauce to the pan and stir well.
- Serve immediately and store the rest in an airtight container. If you wish to serve the popcorn later and it feels a bit soft, just pop in the oven for a few minutes at 190ºC to crisp up.
Serves a family of 4 as a snack.