As a dietitian, I get a lot of questions: Is sugar poisonous? (No.) Should I go on one of those juice cleanses? (Probably not.) But most of all, I get this one:
What kinds of snacks should I feed my kids?
Snacks for kids is a hugely popular topic on the blogosphere. You’ll find loads of recipes for adorable food-art snacks or “clean-eating” makeovers of days-gone-by snacks, like Pop-Tarts and Fruit Roll-Ups. In fact, I’ve got several of those recipes on my blog, like my Apple Cinnamon Fruit Leather and No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls. Because c’mon, who doesn’t love a fun snack?
But my answer to the snack question is actually this: Those “fun” snacks–and all the stuff marketed as snack food like chips, cookies, bars, and cheese crackers–are totally fine occasionally. But most of the time, snacks should simply look like the kind of food you serve at mealtime, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, beans, cheese, and nuts. Because if you only serve “fun” snacks to your child at snack time, meals–with their boring ol’ regular foods–are going to lose their appeal.
Luckily, there’s a way to transform regular ol’ food into something special: The Snack Platter.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: The snack platter is actually just food. On a plate. Yet when I announce, “I made a snack platter!” my kids come running. In fact, I once overheard my fifth grader boasting to his friends, “My mom makes the BEST snack platters!” Sometimes, all you need is a little re-branding.
You can arrange any kind of food you’d like on a Snack Platter, and it can be grab-and-go or fork-required. Some ideas:
- Rolled-up deli meat, leftover roasted chicken or other meats, hard-boiled egg
- Hummus or other bean dips, edamame
- Any fruits and veggies
- Cheese or yogurt
- Nuts or nut butters
- Whole grain crackers, bread, or pita
What can be achieved with the Snack Platter:
- Veggies that may be a hard sell at mealtime look fun and extra-appetizing.
- Kids will get a mix of nutrients, including carbohydrates for energy, protein for fullness, and lots of different vitamins and minerals.
- A completely random assortment of food will look purposely fancy.
Though the Snack Platter in the photo above was made for a crowd of kids, you can use a smaller plate for one or two. Break out your “good” plates or a fancy serving dish to make it feel even more special. Another option that’s great for younger kids: Fill the compartments of a muffin tin with food.
And not for nothing, but on a particularly hectic night, a Snack Platter can also become dinner.
What are YOUR kids’ favorite snacks?