By the time you get in from work and the kids are home from school and afternoon activities, it’s likely that you are all starving and maybe a bit cranky. Even on weekends, there are times when everyone needs a snack on relatively short notice and without a lot of time for prep or a lengthy thought process. While it might seem easiest to grab a bag of chips or to dole out cookies to keep the hunger pangs at bay, there are healthier options that are just as simple. Here are a few ideas for healthy snacks that the whole family can enjoy.
Most people like popcorn, and with a microwave, you can pop up a bag in under two minutes. Popping it on the stove or in an air-popper takes a bit longer, but is almost as convenient. Doing it yourself also means that you control what is going into the snack; use sunflower or canola oil and just a sprinkling of salt for flavor.
If you do decide to go the microwave route, you’re going to want to check for partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list, as this is a sign that the product contains heart-unhealthy trans fats. Not up for reading labels? No problem. Prevention has put out a list of five brands to look for that are both healthy and delicious.
One more caveat: Don’t serve popcorn to kids under four, because it’s a choking hazard.
It seems like a no-brainer to give the kids a piece of fruit when they come in hungry, but this is often met by complaints. One way to stave off the inevitable “but mo-oooom!” and the pleas for the Oreos in the cabinet is to cut up the fruit ahead of time. There are a few ways you can do this to prevent it from looking unappetizing.
First, choose fruits that hold well when cut. Strawberries and melon will stay fresh for a full day after being cut if they’re stored in the fridge. Mix these with smaller whole berries (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) for an antioxidant-filled snack that will tide over hungry tummies until mealtime. This works great for the adults in your house, too, as a bowl of washed berries or cubed melon is often easier to eat and more attractive than a whole orange or apple, and this might keep you out of the chip bowl.
Second, try using a rubber band to hold apple slices together. Slice up the apple, then put it back together, holding it together with a rubber band (you can also use plastic wrap or foil). This will prevent the cut edges from getting brown as it sits in the fridge all day.
Finally, you can use lemon juice to keep cut fruits from browning. Just squeeze 1/4 lemon over the fruit and mix well to spread it around.
You can also use canned fruit that’s packaged in fruit juice without extra sugar added, or even frozen fruit if your kids like that.
Setting out a few healthy dips will keep your family members coming back for more. Try setting out baby carrots and a dip made from a cup of sour cream, a box of frozen spinach (thawed and drained), and half a package of onion soup mix. Another option is to have a bowl of yogurt accompanying whole strawberries or apple slices.
If you want to serve something other than fruits and veggies, consider whole-grain crackers, low-salt pretzels or cubes of pumpernickel or rye bread. These can be used with hummus (homemade or purchased) or any other savory dip.
The key to getting your family to eat more healthy snacks is to have them ready and prepared. If you can take a few minutes before bed or first thing in the morning to get something ready, there will be a healthful option just waiting for hungry hands and mouths.