School’s in session, you’re constantly driving from one event to another, and you really need some me-time.
Trust me, I get it! It’s a lot of work being a mom, and spending any amount of time preparing snacks is almost laughable – let alone time to prepare dinner!
Let’s take a look at why healthy snacking is so important for you and your little ones. But first, we have to start with the dirty truth.
Filling Up On Junk
The biggest issue with fast snacks is that most of them are conveniently unhealthy. Plus, we’re constantly being reminded of those high-sodium, sugar-packed snack foods that the food industry spends nearly $5 million per day marketing to us and our children.
While a bag of kettle chips or a small granola bar seems harmless, a report from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity uncovered that only 4 out of 80 baby and toddler snacks met nutrition standards.
If that doesn’t make you feel great, over half of foods labeled and marketed as baby and toddler food snacks contain added sweeteners! This is detrimental because by the time we’re 2 years old, we’ve developed our food preferences, and if all we’re giving our little one is sweetened junk, that’s what they’ll crave!
Not only are we training our children to prefer sweets, but we’re not supporting healthy growth. Fast food intake more than three times per week is associated with greater odds of asthma and eczema, and eating junk food regularly can lead to lifelong problems like obesity, low self-esteem, and chronic illnesses.
Now that we all feel like parents of the year (my hand is raised here too), I’ve got some better news for you. Making healthy, on-the-go snacks for your kids – and yourself, mama! – can be easy. It doesn’t require spending hours in the kitchen sweating and cleaning up pots and pans.
An Apple A Day…
If you’re turning your nose up at the idea of spending any amount of time on snack preparation, hear me out!
Snacks, when they’re packed with nutrition, have some incredible benefits that can add a real pep to your step during the day.
On the other hand, sugary snacks like candy bars are terrible for your energy – despite what some popular candy bar commercials say – because they give a quick burst of energy that quickly drops and leaves you feeling cranky, ravenous, and drained.
By eating small, healthy snacks throughout the day, you’re much more likely to resist overeating – and fall for cravings – which can help with weight control.
Nutrient-dense, low-sugar snacks give you energy that lasts all day. Snacks with protein also have brain-boosting benefits that’ll help you stay sharp and mentally alert, which is an added bonus for our working moms!
Afternoon slump? Never heard of it!
Healthy snacking also has positive effects on your cholesterol. Studies show that people who eat six or more times per day have a lower total blood cholesterol level than those who don’t.
A Few Quick Snacking Tips
Now that we’re all on the same page about how awesome healthy snacking is, there are a few… disclaimers.
For starters, there’s a difference between having a snack and mindlessly eating all day long. I’m looking at you, grazers – you know who you are!
If you’re not mindful and intentional about your snacking, you’ll find that you’re not only consuming too many calories and potentially gaining weight, but you’ll be spending way too much money on groceries!
Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank, but eating far more than your body needs can.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’re really hungry before grabbing a snack. When you’ve finished your snack, you should feel satisfied – not stuffed.
Secondly, snacks should be small. All of the studies and research we mentioned are based on small snacks or small meals throughout the day.
Put that massive tub of popcorn away and instead, think in handfuls. Small portions are what provide all those metabolism-boosting, mood-enhancing, energy-pumping benefits.
Plan It Out
Finally, plan your snacks!
If you’re an avid meal planner already, this will be a piece of cake, but even if you’re not, spend a little time thinking about when you’ll have what snacks.
If you’re constantly just grabbing whatever, it’ll be so much easier to fall for cravings and reach for unhealthy fast food options. It’s so easy to stop by the gas station and get a donut when you’re starving mid-morning, but if you’ve planned to have an apple in your bag, you’re good to go.
Your kids will also benefit from your planning! The next time you’re at a soccer game and your little one is begging for a snack, you’ll know exactly what to reach for.
What Makes a Healthy Snack?
OK, so we’re all in on the healthy snacks thing. But… what’s healthy?
Here are a few things to look for:
- Portion sizes: stick to the recommended portion size on the label, and measure it out rather than eating straight from the bag.
- If sugar is one of the first ingredients, skip it.
- Foods low in added fat and sugar yet high in fiber and water are great choices – think grapes instead of raisins.
- Fruits, veggies, and whole-grain snacks are great choices.
- Avoid fruit-flavored drinks, and instead, go for the actual fruit.
- To stay full longer, pair protein with a carb – think apple and cheese or carrots and hummus.
In general, a great, small snack is going to be around 150-250 calories. Making sure it has some protein and fiber will also ensure that you kick cravings and stay full longer.
8 Healthy Snack Ideas When You’re On The Go
Now that you have the guidelines, the world is really your oyster. However, having some ideas to spur your imagination can help jumpstart your snacking plans. Here are 8 quick healthy snack ideas for when you and the kids are on the go.
1. Hard-boiled eggs
Two hard-boiled eggs will put you right at the 150-calorie mark, which is the perfect sized snack.
Eggs also contain protein, which will help you stay fuller for longer.
2. RX bars
RX bars are high protein and are made with clean ingredients – it’s a snack that mom and the kids can feel good about. This is a great alternative to other popular snack bars that are packed with added sugars.
The best part? No kitchen required.
3. Turkey roll-ups
Even if you can’t boil a pot of water, this is a recipe we promise you can handle.
All you need is deli turkey, your favorite cheese (Swiss is great), and whatever you want to wrap it in – lettuce is a winner, but whole-wheat tortillas can work, too.
Simply lay your lettuce or tortilla flat, layer your turkey slices and cheese on top, and roll tightly. Wrap your roll in plastic wrap and chill. To serve, slice your roll into equal round pieces.
You can spice up this snack recipe by adding tomatoes and cream cheese like this Costco Copycat recipe does, but no matter what, it’s an incredibly easy snack – and it’s healthy to boot!
4. Energy bites
All of those brain-boosting benefits of having small snacks throughout the day are amplified when you consume foods that are known for giving you energy.
Energy bites are really fun, because they require no baking, and you can have full control over what goes inside.
What you need:
- 1 ¼ cup oats – this is the base of an energy bite; plus, it’s filling and inexpensive
- ½ cup of a thick, binding ingredient – nut butters like almond or peanut butter are fantastic
- ⅓ cup natural sweetener – honey or pure maple syrup help kick up the flavor
- 2 TB of your favorite mix-ins – add those superfoods that you’d never consume on their own, like chia seeds or flaxseeds. You can even add some mini chocolate chips to make this snack more fun
Once you’ve chosen your ingredients, it’s time to mix them all together, form them into balls, and refrigerate.
Tip: Try adding unsweetened coconut flakes and mini chocolate chips for a mock Almond Joy energy bite!
5. Hummus and veggies
If you’re a busy mom, you can buy pre-made hummus at your grocery store and pair it with veggies like carrots, celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes.
And if you have some extra time on your hands or want to get your kids involved in the kitchen, try making your own! It’ll save you some cash, and you can add your favorite flavorings. Can anyone say garlic hummus?!
Nuts are great snacks, but they can be tricky because the portion sizes need to be small. Nuts pack a lot of calories!
However, research has shown that the shell on pistachios make the serving sizes feel bigger, which tricks our brains into thinking we ate more than we did.
Take advantage of this snack hack and have 30 pistachios, which is about 100 calories. You’ll benefit from the protein and fiber, and kids will have fun de-shelling their nuts.
7. Roasted chickpeas
When chickpeas are roasted, they become this crunchy, savory treat that seriously satisfies.
All you need is a can of chickpeas, dried, and your favorite spices. Salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne works well!
Bake your seasoned and lightly oiled chickpeas on a sheet tray for 25 minutes, and it’s snack time!
8. A piece of fruit
Ah, the easiest for last. What’s easier than throwing an apple or a banana in your kid’s lunchbox? If you have extra time, consider cutting up your own fruit bowl with pineapples, mangoes, and whatever other fruits may be in season.
Tip: Cutting up your own fruit will save you a ton of money when compared to buying the pre-cut fruit at your grocery store.
Nearly all fruit contains fiber and healthy nutrients like vitamins C and A, and best of all, they’re great on-the-go snacks.
Check Out Our Recipe Library for More Ideas!
I get it, trust me – I still crave all the bad things sometimes, but it’s important to have self-discipline.
I know a ton of easy and healthy snacks to make and buy ahead of time so you are prepared. I’ve got a whole recipe library FULL of my healthy ideas, including snacks. Visit the recipe library at benton.mcclurefitness.com/recipes, and let me know what you think!