Snack time seems to have taken on a life of its own. We are a society living in the fast lane and somewhere along the highway we decided it was OK to substitute empty calories and convenience ‘food’ for nutrition. To make matters worse, we seem to be in a constant state of snacking as families get busier.
Studies do suggest eating smaller meals more frequently during the day can be healthier than the traditional larger breakfast, lunch and dinner, but there is a flaw in this reality. Not only have snacks been added to our 3 daily meals, especially for young children, but the snacks being offered are processed packaged foods that provide our growing kids with very little nutritional value.
As an active family there are many occasions when we have meals in our mini van or enjoy car snacks to hold us over until a late dinner, but I treat those snacks and mobile dinners as mini meals. I ensure they are healthy and include 5 essentials of a balanced meal because my busy active kids need to be properly nourished to be at their best.
Now is the time to purge the process.
Fill your grocery cart with healthy foods and get the whole family on board to purge the cartoon character wrapped processed snacks for good.
Purge the Processed – Simple Ways to Snack Smarter
Free the Fish
Fish shaped crackers offer very little value besides maybe engaging a toddlers busy hands. There are so many snack options that are easy to grab on the go and pack a nutritional punch. Make your own trail mix of low sugar dried cereals and add in dried fruit like raisons, apricots, prunes, almonds, roasted chick peas and even chocolate chips for fun.
Toss the Tubes
You are getting more sugar, colour and additives for your buck than nutrition in the tubes and drinkable yogurts. Buy plain or vanilla greek yogurt and dress it up with frozen berries or a drizzle of maple syrup. Store in individual reusable containers in the fridge for easy to grab on-the-go snacking.
Steer Clear of Colour
All you need is water or 100% juice that gets its colour naturally from the fruit. Anything else has dyes and chemicals in it. Sport drinks, crystals, fruit punches and cocktails are nothing more than coloured sugar water. Stick with clear water and add your own flavour with fresh or frozen berries, lemon, lime or even cucumbers and mint.
Crush the Candy
Those ‘made with real’ fruit snacks are more like candy than fruit. Replace fruit in a cup, fruit in a roll up, fruit gusher and fruit chews with REAL fruit. Sliced apples, grapes, bananas, orange, melon, pears – the list is endless and kids love eating real fruit. Put it on a stick, add a yogurt dip, freeze grapes for more fun. Get in the habit of serving the real thing and crush the candy habit.
Dessert is not for Breakfast
Breakfast is a an important meal that gets you going for the day. It should be full of protein, calcium, whole grains and REAL fruit. Slowly our choices in breakfast cereal seem to be morphing into dessert toppings made with chocolate, marshmallows and honey clusters. A bowl of fruity loops or crunchy captains has the same amount of sugar as 4 cookies and pretty similar nutritional value. Steer clear of cereals that have more than 10 grams of sugar and stick with simple whole grains that offer protein and fibre with only 1 gram of sugar, then go to town with real fruit toppings like bananas and berries.
Let Go of Granola Bars
They are easy, convenient and have words like whole grains splashed all over them but a granola bar is not that great nutritionally. The average bar offers only 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of fibre while boasting 6 or more grams of sugar. Compare that to a serving of dry cheerios, shreddies or oat square cereal that offers 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein with similar or less sugar. Pack your own trail mix instead and reap the health benefits of the added nutrition and energy.
Make a deal with your family that you will reach for simple food and avoid the processed convenience options. It starts with making healthy choices at the grocery store and being mindful of the snacks we are packing for school lunches and busy days on the go. What are your go-to smart snacks?