Unprocessed Snacks for Kids
Slices of turkey and cheese are only mildly appealing to my children. But give them a plastic Lunchables box, and they think they’ve won a prize.
The same goes for apple juice. My son would never drink a glass of apple juice. But an apple juice box? He’s all in.
I hate to think such young kids could already be prey to marketing. But they’re certainly drawn to the bright colors, graphics and proportionate-sized packaging. And there’s another thing – eating pre-packaged foods makes them think they’re getting away with something. They know it’s not on mom’s healthy list, so it makes them love it more.
I can blame myself as much as I can blame marketing for their affinity for processed foods, but the bottom line is we would all be better off eating as few of these highly processed foods as possible.
Through cookbooks and blogs, I’ve found many alternatives to those overly salted and sugared foods. Some of these processed-food alternatives, my kids (and I, let’s be honest) have thrown in the trash. Others, we’ve loved. I call that a win.
Here are some of my favorite foods to make as substitutes for the crackers, cookies and yogurts they crave – minus the high-fructose corn syrup and additives.
My kids don’t even have to pretend they like these as much as packaged popsicles. I love them for dessert, too.
Frozen Yogurt Pops
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3/4 cup pureed fruit (or you can use frozen fruit juice concentrate)
- 3/4 cup 2 percent milk
In a bowl, combine yogurt, fruit and milk. Pour into a popsicle mold and freeze until firm.
If you don’t have a popsicle mold, use small paper cups. Pour mixture into each cup, and freeze until partially frozen, then insert a wooden stick into center of each, and freeze until firm. To serve, peel away paper cups.
You might wonder about the title. Aren’t all granola bars kid-approved? No, not if you’ve tried some of the recipes I’ve forced upon my kids. My kids don’t want health food disguised as a granola bar, even if that’s what these are. This recipe is adapted from the Emily A. Roach blog. You can change the add-ins for your favorites: dates, pecans, walnuts, chocolate chips, etc.
Kid-Approved Granola Bars
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 1/2 cups oats
- 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper, or grease well.
Melt butter, honey, applesauce and vanilla in a medium saucepan.
Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add melted butter mixture to the oatmeal mixture, stirring until combined.
Pour mixture into prepared pan. Press down on the mixture to ensure bars stick together. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container.
Cheese crackers, like Cheez-Its, are always a hit at my house. But my kids honestly like these as much as the store-bought. For adults, these are a hands-down winner. I originally found this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens.
- 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons ice water
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the cheese, butter and salt. Add the flour and mix on low (dough will be pebbly). Slowly add the water and mix as the dough forms a ball.
Pat the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into a very thin (1/8 inch or less) 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Using a pastry cutter, cut the rectangles into 1-inch squares, then transfer them to the baking sheets.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until puffed and browning at the edges. Watch carefully, as the high fat content of the crackers makes a fine line between golden delicious and burnt. Immediately move the crackers to racks to cool.
We love the bags of apple chips from the grocery store. These are just as good, without the long list of ingredients.
- 2 apples, cored and sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
Slice apples thin, either with a mandolin or a sharp knife.
Mix sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Add apples, and toss to coat.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray with cooking spray. Spread apples evenly on baking sheet. Bake until dried and edges curl up, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer apple chips, using a metal spatula, to a wire rack until cooled and crispy. Chips will not become crisp until they have completely cooled