Healthy Holiday Snacking

Going on holiday generally means that routines and good habits take a backseat, and the taboos that were frowned upon all year sneak their way into the family festivities. Meals are no exception but there are some small things that you can do to ensure that your little munchkin is getting some solid nutrition between all the ice cream cones and hot dogs:

  • Plan ahead: although the words ‘planning’ and ‘holiday’ don’t necessarily gel, a little pre-thought will go a long way in stocking up your fridge, cooler bag or handbag with healthy and nutritious foods that are easy to serve up wherever you go. Pre-empting that your little one is more than likely to get bored in the car or plane on your journey, make sure you have enough entertainment on hand in the form of a variety of delicious snack choices.
  • Tools for freshness: pack a cooler bag and a few ice packs so that you don’t have an excuse not to have anything healthy on-hand. If you would rather not schlep a clunky cooler box around, look out for the fabric varieties that could double as a grocery bag/travel/beach bag.
  • Store it: instead of feeling as though you would rather avoid the mess of leftovers and debris after packaging has been opened, throw a few small storage containers and package clips (or even clothes pegs) into your packing. By doing so, you’ll have a smart way of separating serving portions and keeping leftovers intact.
  • Be practical: look for those products that are re-sealable and easy to serve straight from the packaging, and those snacks that won’t make an unholy mess! Pre-packing portions of snacks into single servings (packets or containers) will make it easier to hand snacks out when the time comes.

Here is some healthy snack inspiration to keep in mind when doing your holiday grocery shopping:

  • Fresh delights: look out for fresh fruits that are easy to eat (naartjies, grapes, strawberries, blueberries) or ready cut-up fruit and veg options to make life even easier. For more mess-free options, opt for slithers of apples, banana, strawberries and pears, or carrot and cucumber battons.
  • Skewer it: to keep little hands busy, skewer an array of mixed fruit pieces –  like banana, apple, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple- onto a skewer stick (look for blunt-ended sticks). Store these in your cooler bag for a playful and delicious treat!
  • Dried goodness: dried fruit is such a simple snack to store and dish out easily on-the-go, just don’t overdo it or your little one may end up with a sore tummy.
  • Stack it: what’s a family holiday without some home-made sarmies? Opt for wholewheat, rye and low GI options and get creative with fillings, cutting each sandwich into fingers to hand out to little people with ease. Some healthy fillings include; sugar-free nut butter and banana; egg mayo; chicken mayo; cold meat with cucumber and tomato; smashed avocado and lemon juice.
  • Meaty treats: biltong sticks and dried wors serve as a healthy, high-protein snack for the whole family. Remember to store dried meat in an airtight container once removed from the packaging (note that biltong can be high in salt, so ensure that your little one is hydrated if they are eating it and limit portions).
  • Fuss-free nibbles: Rice crackers are fantastic to keep on-hand to eat plain, add a topping to or to dunk into a dip. Dried cereal is also super easy to hand out – preferably look out for options that aren’t loaded with sugar (retailers like Woolworths keep a kiddies’ cereal range that has no added cane sugar). Organic toddler snacks (look out for awesome products from Happy Baby and Olli) also make for a fantastic healthy snack.
  • Dip it: re-sealable packs of guacamole, hummus and cottage cheese are healthy and delicious dip options for crackers, bread sticks or even veggies.
  • Something cheesy : wedges, cubes or strings are high protein options that make for easy eating on the backseat, plane, beach or whilst missioning around. Remember to keep cheese cool to prevent it from spoiling in warm weather.
  • Freeze it: pop some mini yoghurts in the freezer and keep these on-hand for hot days (not forgetting to pack some spoons!). For an even easier (and less messy) eating option that can be eaten straight from the packaging, try this with tubes of drinking yoghurt or no-sugar-added fruit purée in pouches with a nozzle – like Squish (found in most stores in the baby food section).

Note:

  • Remember to keep an eye on your child at all times when they are snacking (with one eye on the backseat if you are sitting in the front of your car!).
  • Keep your child hydrated at all times on your travels and especially when spending time in warmer weather.
  • Be prepared for some mess wherever you are. Spills and accidents happen, so keep those wet wipes close on-hand when dishing out food and drinks.

Most importantly, enjoy the time with your children and don’t sweat the small stuff: if your little one has consumed more sugar, sodium and refined carbohydrates than they probably should have over the holidays that’s OK –  2018 and the new year resolutions that come along with it are just around the corner!

Healthy Snacking 101

The American Association of Paediatrics recommends 2-3 healthy snacks per day for little ones  i.e.: one in the morning, one mid-afternoon and possibly one before bedtime.

In a recent report published, 86% of toddlers consume some type of sweetened beverage, dessert, sweet or salty snack in a day, and that they are more likely to consume these culprits than whole fruit and vegetables. This isn’t exactly surprising if you stop and take note of the types of snacks mamas are dishing out at play dates, in lunch boxes and when on-the-go.

Snack time doesn’t need to mean rolling out the red carpet for the processed, sugary or salty treats: it needs to be viewed as a time for your child to meet their daily nutritional requirements. To ensure your child is getting in the recommended 5 starch, 5 fruit and veg, 3 dairy and 2 protein portions daily, you need to keep your fridge and pantry packed with healthy snacks to tide your little monkey over between meals.

Here are my (and my son’s) top 10 favourite healthy snack foods:

  1. Mashed avocado/ guacamole: by far one of the most popular items in our fridge at home! Not only is this superfood crammed with goodness for growing little people, but it makes for an easy snack without much preparation required. Packed with unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and fibre, eating avocado means that your child is getting in all the building blocks needed for a healthy heart, developing brain and nervous system. Serve it it as a smooth/chunky dip for your little one to dip other healthy foods into. Your child will love the novelty of being able to dip, making snack time exciting (even if a little messy!).
  2. Hummus / bean dip: another low-sodium and sugar-free snack that makes for a healthy and nutrient-packed dipping food. Beans in general are a fantastic source of healthy fats, fibre, protein and carbohydrates for little people. Make your own with any bean/lentil of your choice, by pureeing soaked/cooked/tinned varieties with a splash of olive oil, garlic/ a squeeze of lemon juice and seasoning until the desired consistency.
  3. Cheese: another brilliant source of dairy in your child’s diet and something that always seems to go down well (unless your child is lactose intolerant, that is). For children over 2, it is recommended to rather opt for light-coloured, pasteurized, low-fat (not fat free) varieties given that they no longer need all the additional fat in their diets that was needed when they were babies. Try low-fat cream cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan. Serve on wholegrain crackers or rice cakes, or as slithers for a quick and healthy finger food amidt the activities. Remember that the more processed the cheese, the more additives and preservatives hiding inside, so always compare food labels (the longer the list of ingredients and the more ingredients you don’t recognise= more processed).
  4. Pieces of fruit and veggies: organic, fresh produce, loaded with vitamins and fibre, is still the healthiest way to enjoy fruit and veggies (versus juice or dried fruit). Dried fruit should be limited to no more than once per day due to the high sugar content. Veggie battons can be steamed for easier eating, and then served with a variety of healthy dips to keep things exciting. To ensure that the fruit or veg you are giving you little one has the most nutrients possible, have a look at some guidelines on preparing and storing baby food.
  5. Pâté: packed with flavour and simple to whip out the fridge, pâté can be served as a spread or dip. Mix it up with different types: liver, tuna salmon, egg or even veg. Liver pâté is only recommended for children older than one. Remember that whilst liver is a very wholesome food with a high vitamin A content, too much of it can be a bad thing. Rather limit liver servings to once a week.
  6. Wholegrain rice cakes or crackers: containing more vitamins, minerals and fibre compared to the white and nutrionally empty variety, it is recommended to opt for wholegrain snack options wherever possible. Ensure you have a pantry supply of these good-for-you items to serve with delicious spreads or toppings, or when on the go. Store in an air-tight container to lock in the freshness.
  7. Home made baked treats: whilst the store bought kind is tempting for us time-strapped mommies, by making your own baked treats at home means that there is a better chance of the good stuff going into every serving. Instead of sugar and additives, you can get creative with so many healthy alternatives (and you can even sneak some veggies in too!). If your child has a food intolerance, you have better control over what is going into their little body.
  8. Sugar-free nut butter: healthy and convenient, nut butters can be served with apples, celery, crackers or toast fingers. The American Association of Paediatrics recommends it as a food to offer to fussy eaters (unless they have a nut allergy) because it has been found that children are more likely to trial a new food if it has been dipped in nut butter! Opt for the sugar-free variety and mix it up with different types (peanut, almond, macademia and cashew), you’ll have a fantastic protein source on-hand in a matter of seconds.
  9. Boiled eggs: super easy to keep in the fridge and serve with ease, without any additional fat or oil required to prepare them. Each egg contains 6 grams of protein, which equates to just under half of your child’s daily protein requirements. An excellent source of vitamin D and B12, choline, amino acids and omegas for healthy development. Always ensure that eggs are well done or hard boiled, and store them for no longer than a week in the refrigirator (upeeled).
  10. Yoghurt: a delicious and healthy way for your child to get in their daily dairy requirement (one 125ml pot of yoghurt is the equivalent of one dairy serving). Opt for the unsweetened, plain kind to bypass up to 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving in sweetened yoghurts, and get creative with delicious flavour combinations and refreshing creations: smoothies, fruit lollies and parfaits to name a few. If your child has a dairy allergy then opt for soya yoghurt that has been fortified with calcium.

Tip: Remember to always offer your little one their snack with water (or diluted fruit juice) to ensure that they are getting in plenty fluids throughout the day.

Keep a look out for some inspirational recipe ideas using the healthy ingredients mentioned!

*The above information should never replace the advice of your GP, paediatrician or nurse.