1. Air-popped popcorn
Popcorn is a great snack for kids. It’s rich in dietary fibre, to help promote good bowel health, and contains plenty of health-promoting antioxidants called ‘polyphenols’. The way you prepare your popcorn is of importance though. Movie and pre-packed microwave popcorn for instance are very high in calories, unhealthy fats and salt. A large tub of movie popcorn can contain a whopping 1,500mg sodium – close to your daily recommended limit – a huge 60g of saturated fat, and as much as 1,200 calories, which is around three quarters of an adult’s daily recommended calorie intake. Air-popped popcorn with a little sea salt, however, is a healthy low calorie snack for kids.
This healthy dip takes just minutes to make and it’s one of the healthiest snacks around. All you need is one can of chickpeas (drained) or better still cook up some dried chickpeas, 2 Tbsp of tahini, juice of a small lemon, 1-2 cloves of garlic and 1 Tbsp of either cold pressed olive or flaxseed oil (it’s cheaper and healthier to make your own hummus as some brands contain vegetable oils, too much salt and preservatives). Then blend all ingredients together until you have a smooth consistency. Hummus is an excellent source of protein and dietary fibre, as well as B vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium, and healthy unsaturated fats. Hummus is delicious with vegie sticks, wholegrain crackers, or on toast or as a butter alternative on sandwiches.
3. Trail mix
A trail mix of raw and unsalted nuts and seeds and dried fruit is highly nutritious snack for kids. Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein, which is not only important for supplying amino acids for children’s growth and development, but it will also help keep their blood sugar levels balanced and stop them wanting sugary foods. Nuts and seeds also contain calcium for strong bones, zinc for immune health, and beneficial unsaturated fats to support their nervous system function. Try making up your own combinations of almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, sun-dried apricots, apples, goji berries and dates. Dried fruits are rich in fibre. Sun-dried fruits are an even healthier choice as they are free from sulfur preservatives.
Yoghurt is an extremely healthy snack for children, which provides plenty of important nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, which is needed for healthy nervous system function. Fermented foods such as yoghurt play a very important role in a child’s diet, being necessary for supporting and balancing their digestive systems and for promoting good immune function. Yoghurt is rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help colonize the digestive tract. These beneficial bacteria are essential for good digestion, for increasing immune cells and immune function, and for the production of vital nutrients such as B12, A and K. A large percentage of our immune system is situated in our gut, so making sure that your child has a healthy balance of good bacteria in their gut will reduce their susceptibility to illness. Make sure you choose a good quality yoghurt, preferably organic, and one that doesn’t contain added sugars. Many supermarket brands contain up to 5 teaspoons of sugar in a small tub. For a super healthy snack mix some fresh fruit through yoghurt, to give it an extra antioxidant and vitamin C boost.
Fresh fruits are an extremely important part of your child’s diet, and something that should always be added to your child’s lunchbox. Kids should enjoy a variety of different types and coloured fruits, and should aim to have around 2-3 pieces a day. Fruit is one of the best providers of vitamin C, beta-carotene, antioxidants, which all help protect our kids from illness and chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Fruit is also a fantastic source of dietary fibre. Red and purple berries, grapes and watermelon are particularly rich in antioxidants; kiwi fruit and citrus fruits contain high levels of vitamin C; apricots, peaches and mangoes are excellent sources of beta-carotene; and bananas are packed with potassium and energy giving complex carbs.
Caution: Whole nuts, dried fruits, and popcorn can be a chocking hazard for very young children.