At last Spring Time seems to have sprung! So, it’s time to start planning those fun days out with your kids. But as most parents will appreciate, preparation for days out is key, particularly when it comes to thinking about what to feed your little ones.
So we asked Nutritionist and Mum of 3, Josie Wareing of Best Start Nutrition to provide her top tips for preparing healthy snacks for fun days out:
“I seem to be forever delving into my bag to find something to throw at my kids as they demand ‘snack Mummy, snack’. Certainly my 3 boys can get through a lot of snacks on a fun day out. And let’s face it, if you forget the snacks, or bring stuff that doesn’t hit the spot, well the day can be…not so fun!
The period between birth and 5 years is one of rapid development and energy demands are great. It’s hard to get the balance right in providing food that they all enjoy, but that’s nutrient dense to fuel the endless activity. All too often, off the shelf snacks found in supermarkets are laden with refined sugar and salt. But with a little organisation and some inspiration, it is possible to provide healthy snacks that can be prepared in advance of your days out, so you are ready to positively fuel the fun!
Sounds basic, but barriers to providing healthy food can be as simple as not having the kit. It’s much easier to grab a packet of crisps or a pre wrapped chocolate bar, if you’re staring in the fridge with 10 minutes to departure at a load of food that isn’t good to go. So firstly, stock up on small containers that can be filled the night before and put in the fridge. That way, you will be loading up the snack bag with pre prepared healthy food.
Some of my suggestions involve a little simple cooking. Easy recipes are available from a wide variety of sources nowadays and once you have tried them out, you can adapt to suit your kids tastes. Some things can also be made in batches and frozen, so you will always have something to fall back on. The one piece of kitchen equipment that will save you heaps of time and open loads of possibilities is a food processor. You needn’t spend the earth, however it’s an investment you won’t regret and will transform your snacking!
The Colourful Crew
If you are one of the lucky parents that has kids that eat fruit and veg – hurrah! I’m faced with a mixed bag in my family but I don’t give up trying. Aim for 2 containers with fruit and veg and vary what you offer. Obvious choices are cherry tomatoes, carrot, cucumber, celery and pepper batons and I’ve found spiralising carrots/cucumber into wiggly worms can help fussy kids to try. If your kids are more experimental, when in season try broad beans or fresh peas. Bringing them in their pods can make it fun to shell and eat.
Finger fruit is easy and the variety is endless. Berries are portable and require minimal prep and chopped up grapes are always a winner. Bananas and tangerines are probably the best portable fruit snacks around. More labour intensive to prepare the night before are chopped pineapple, kiwis and melons. Cocktail sticks can be used to make mini berry and grape kebabs to make them more fun.
It’s a good idea to pack a dip or 2 to liven up the veg. Kids generally love getting stuck in to a dip and as long as there’s a pack of baby wipes handy, they are great to take out and about. Hummus is an obvious choice and is readily available. If you have invested in a food processor you will be amazed at how quickly and easily you can whizz up your own dips. This is beneficial as it’s cheaper, you can make larger quantities and it’s healthier too. Buy in tins of chickpeas, a jar of tahini, garlic, lemon and olive oil and you are set. The great thing about making your own, is that you can disguise it with all sorts of other healthy and yummy things. My faves are roasted red peppers, sun blush tomatoes or avocado. Butter beans make a great substitute for chickpeas and there are great recipes on line if you search. Pea, avocado and mint is another easy one which kids tend to like. If your kids are veg averse, try packing some rice cakes for them to dip, or even better oatcakes, which are a great source of energy.
It’s important to ensure that your snack selection includes some protein options, as these provide amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body. Deficiency in these can influence growth and development as well as affect behaviour, memory and concentration. All too often snacks are made up of fast burning carbs and sugar.
Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and super versatile as a snack. You can keep it simple by chopping up boiled eggs, or be more adventurous and make mini egg muffins to take out. These are brilliant as they are quick and easy to make, can be frozen and can include anything that your kids enjoy. You simply whisk up eggs and milk and throw in a handful of your chosen chopped ingredients such as grated cheese, ham, onion, peppers (note yellow peppers are not well seen!), mushroom or spinach. Pour into a well-oiled muffin tray and cook for 20 mins.
Wraps can be made and cut into small rolls for little fingers and provide an interesting alternative to sandwiches. You can get both wholemeal and seeded varieties in most supermarkets. Cold roast chicken, ham or cream cheese can be combined with mashed avocado, spinach leaves, tomato and grated carrot and rolled up tight. Another idea for making ahead is quesadilla slices, using the same tortilla wraps. Just heat olive oil in a frying pan and add a tortilla with your chosen ingredients scattered thinly. Top with grated cheese and another tortilla and flip over for a few minutes. Once it’s cooked slice into wedges and pack for the morning. Chicken on a stick is another good snack that can be bought or made in advance. Marinate chicken breast fillets in your chosen sauce, thread onto skewers and grill for 8 minutes.
The Tricky Treat Bit
This is a difficult snack as the emphasis is usually on sugar. I’ve been experimenting with lots of alternatives recently and have been pleasantly surprised at the response from my harshest critics! The secret ingredient is dates, which are rich in several vitamins and minerals and fibre too. Most recipes state to buy medjool dates, which tend to be the most expensive. I have found that other varieties such as deglet nour or sayer work just as well (and are much cheaper). If you buy the snacking dates that tend to be hard, you can soak in water for 10 mins, drain and then use in recipes as per medjool varieties. Since using more dates, 2 of my boys have started having 2-3 a day as a snack, which is great. Medjool dates can also be split and stuffed with good quality nut butter for an added protein boost.
Snack bars are another great addition to your armory. Call them what you like, breakfast or granola bars, flapjacks or energy bars. The recipes online are plentiful and there is no need to use sugar. Look for recipes with oats as the base and dates as the sweetener.
So, with a little effort and thought you can transform your snacks from rags to riches. However, I appreciate that not all kids will readily accept new ideas. My middle child is a terribly fussy eater and not keen on trying different foods. Some things that have helped me along the way are: making food fun, like the fruit kebabs and wiggly worms. Crazy names also help and making associations with a food he likes. For instance, I’ve called frittata or omelet slices eggy pizza for years now! Miniature foods tend to appeal more to him and so snacks are an easier way to get him to try new things.”
If are planning days out with your kids and want your little one to be able to eat in the comfort of their own seat – then take a look at our Pop N’ Sit and Sit N’ Style portable feeding seats, they are super compact and light and make eating on-the-go a whole lot easier: https://summerinfant.co.uk/product-category/out-about/booster-seats/
We hope you’ve found these tips useful and hope you enjoy some fun days out with your kids! If you would like to contact Josie for Nutritional Advice then you can email her on: firstname.lastname@example.org