There came a point recently when I realized I could no longer just feed my kid bits from my plate. Pinching off pieces of my sandwich or tossing a few of my noodles on his tray will no longer suffice. Toddlers eat a lot. And often.
My boy just transitioned to the toddler room at daycare. Among the major earth-shattering life changes that has brought (no more bottles, sleeping on a cot, one nap, art projects!) is the two-snack schedule. The kids have a morning snack and an afternoon snack, plus a 5 p.m. snack for the late-stayers, and from what I understand they basically graze all day.
This means I’ve had to get a little creative. Unlike his old daycare, this spot doesn’t provide the food, which if you ask me is way better, because I always hated picking my son up and having his breath smell of Cheez-Its and Teddy Grahams. I don’t eat a lot of processed snacks, and I’d rather my son not either. It’s important to me that we teach him healthy eating, and snacks are no exception.
Some days I’ve sent him along with a container of halved grapes and a handful of Cheddar Bunnies (Yes, they are processed, in a box, at the store, but at least they are organic and I recognize every one of the ingredients. I can’t say the same for some of the other packaged snacks out there.), which seems all fine and good, if not a little boring day after day and missing an opportunity for some sustenance.
A major caveat to snack time is that daycare has no way of heating up the food, so the snacks have to be good cold or at room temp. The second caveat? My kid can’t use utensils yet, so the snacks have to be finger foods. I realize many culinary doors will open when utensils enter the picture.
Hence my quest for healthy snacks I can send to daycare that one could eat sans spoons and molars.
First the easy ones:
1. I’m pretty sure every kid will house cut up fruit of any kind. Favorites in our house this summer are cut up grapes, pineapple, blueberries, mango, banana (sometimes, although lately he’d rather eat a banana from the peel, a skill he has not mastered and therefore takes a lot of patience on my part to periodically hold a half-peeled banana in front of my kid’s face … not something daycare will do, I imagine.). And depending on his mood, he’ll pound some cut up grape tomatoes.
2. For variety, I made something of a trail mix with Cheddar Bunnies, raisins and Cheerios. I’ve also thought about adding those freeze-dried yogurt bites (again, organic) but they seem to get soggy pretty quickly. So I’ll make a container of this mix and have it on hand. I’m also pondering adding different dried fruits, like apricots, to the mix.
3. The topic of healthy snacks came up on my new mom’s listserv a few months ago and here were some of the no-bake ideas floated: cereal fruit bars (these have become a stand-by for easy breakfasts), cheese cubes, diced cold roasted chicken (haven’t tried this yet, but I’m intrigued), mini PB&J sandwiches.
Now for some that require a little cooking or baking:
4. I’m not sure these will work cold yet, but at home I’ll nuke a handful of frozen mixed vegetables, add a teeny tiny bit of salt and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and let him go to town. Or frozen shelled edamame. Soggy cold veggies don’t sound great to me, but you never know. Similarly, room temp sweet potato fries are on my list to try. For these, just slice up a peeled sweet potato into strips, lightly coat in olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 400 degrees for about a half hour or so until brown and a little crispy on the outside.
5. I just made these spinach muffins this weekend and they were a hit. They’re not too sweet but cakey in texture with only a tiny subtle spinach taste. Spinach! I made them in a mini muffin pan which made them more manageable for tiny hands and a little more moist.
6. Another awesome mini muffin idea is zucchini banana bread with raisins. This recipe uses whole-wheat flour as well as all-purpose, which just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. These are dense, but delicious, and the raisins add a nice sweetness. (Remember, the riper the bananas, the better. The ones I used for this latest batch were almost unrecognizable.)
I welcome – nay, I beg – you to give me more suggestions for snack ideas here.