Snacking has a bad rap. But it really shouldn’t, as snacking can be one of the healthiest ways to eat! When you eat several smaller meals throughout the day – as you feel hungry – instead of ignoring your hunger signals and waiting until a big sit down meal, you tend to eat less, and thus feel less hungry overall. When I’m less hungry, I find I make better, healthier choices for snacking, and am less inclined to gorge myself when I do sit down for dinner. When I’m not sugar-starved and faced with the feeling of, “oh my gosh, if I don’t get something in my face right now I’m going to keel over – pass me whatever is edible”, then I can make a more measured choice. I believe that when given a chance, your body will let you know when you’re hungry, and if you trust that feeling, you can make good, healthy choices to satisfy and nourish yourself!
With children, I’ve found they are naturally inclined to be snackers. They have smaller stomachs, higher energy levels, and just need to eat smaller meals, more frequently, in order to stay healthy, and even-keeled (which, as we all know, is super important for everyone’s sanity!). When preparing snacks for the kids, I like to use the grazing method. I prepare a plate with several different options on it, and put it out on a small table for them to pick at as they are hungry. Why? Primarily, this approach takes the pressure off eating. The grazing plate allows for a little of something for everyone, with no need to sit down in a specific spot at a particular time or eat something that they aren’t fond of. Not everyone is always hungry at the same time, nor for the same thing. And as the goal with food isn’t clearing a plate or eating exactly what’s put in front of you, but rather, consciousness: being aware of your hunger, and choosing healthy foods (that taste good, too), grazing just makes sense! The other reason I like the grazing approach to eating is because it seems to follow naturally after breastfeeding my infants on cue, baby-led feeding my older babies, and child-led weaning my toddlers. It’s about giving your children a choice, and trusting their bodies to let them know when they are hungry and what they’re hungry for.
So what kinds of snacks am I talking about when I say healthy snacking/grazing?
Here are a few healthy (vegetarian) suggestions for kids (and adults):
Sweet potato chips
Peanut butter, sunbutter, almond butter
Hard boiled egg slices
Cheddar or colby cheese cubes
Cheese strings (we love Armenian string cheese)
Cashews, walnuts, almonds
Yogurt (we like Liberte brand because it’s naturally sweetened with fruit)
Peach, nectarine, mango slices
Berries (I serve cherries pre-pitted)
Clementine oranges (easy for kids to peel)
Dried cherries, cranberries, apples
Whole wheat crackers
Pretzels (we like Newman’s Own protein)
Popcorn (air popped, non-GMO)
Spiral or Farfale pasta
Whole wheat pancake or waffle slices