Five guilt free snacks the whole family will love! Plus, debunking the greatest snack time myths! Keep snacking easy, nutritious, and completely guilt-free!
Let’s face it every kid loves to snack.
And every mama does too.
Snack time in the states has a really poor reputation. Probably because our mind goes directly to Cheetos and snack cakes. To counteract this many well meaning mamas (or adults in general) try to cut out snack time completely in their homes.
Snacking is not bad for kids- or adults for that matter. Snacking can be and actually should be part of any healthy lifestyle.
Mamas, do you find yourself or your child getting hungry between meals?
Do you find your energy depleting and your body growing sluggish before your next meal? Particularly around 2pm.
Or do you find you often overeat at mealtime?
And let’s not forget how hangry (hungry+angry) toddlers and Mama bears can get..
All of these can be resolved by one simple- and delectable- trick: snack time.
Debunking Snack Time Myths
Before we start into any recipes or ideas let’s first debunk some of the top myths surrounding snacking.
1. If my kids are hungry between meals they didn’t eat enough at meal times.
This could be true, especially if they didn’t eat well and are begging for something else shortly after leaving the table.
In that situation, you may want to simply save their meal and offer to reheat it when they are hungry.
However, kids have relatively small stomachs and very active bodies, so hearty appetites are not a bad thing. (Especially because they are still growing.)
The other side of that is kids won’t eat giant portions at meal time.
This is absolutely normal!
In fact we can encourage overeating this way without even meaning to.
It is also normal for your three year old to eat like a grown man one day and like a bird the next. Appetites vary child to child and day to day.
I know I personally have been guilty of dipping out far too much for a tiny stomach and then been disappointed when they didn’t eat as well as I had hoped. The rule in our house is you have to try everything on your plate, and you cannot leave the table until Mama or Daddy says so.
Often times this means requiring 3 more bites of chicken or finishing off their peas.
But even cleaning their plate at every meal doesn’t make snack time a bad idea! Three or four hours between meals with lots of playtime in between warrants a snack.
2. If I give them a snack, they won’t eat the next meal.
Again, this may be true.
If they are begging for a snack at 5:30 and dinner is at 6- probably not a good idea.
This is why snacking windows are so important.
A general rule of thumb is no snacking within an hour of a meal. So if breakfast is at 8am and lunch at noon- the snack window would be from 9am-11am.
A simple snack a couple of hours before the next meal shouldn’t affect their appetite.
Snack size and timing are most likely the determining factors for the next meal.
Snacks should be just that- snacks.
You don’t need big plates or a food pyramid to plan them!
Eating a small snack between meals can keep blood sugar and energy levels from dipping.
Long spaces between meals without snacks can lead to hunger, fussiness, frustration, brain fog, (take note homeschool mamas!) and even a drop in blood glucose levels.
3. Meals are healthier than snacks.
This is a very common myth, and the thing is- food is what you make it.
Arguing that it is too close to dinner time for your child to eat an apple when the next meal is chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac and Cheese seems a little silly when you think about it.
On the other hand, a bowl of chips immediately before a healthy meal is not helping anyone either.
Mealtime and snack time can and should both be healthy options. Snack time can allow added nutrition that kids may miss during 3 normal meals.
4. 3 Large Meals a day is the healthiest way to eat
I don’t think it surprises anyone that our food system here in America is broken. But sometimes even the most basic thoughts around eating can be a little backwards from how our bodies are made to function.
For example, what is the most important meal of the day?
If you said “breakfast” you are correct. So why then does it tend to have more sugar than any other meal. Sugar (typical table sugar that is) is an anti-nutrient- meaning it actually prevents your body from absorbing the nutrients of other foods.
I know, I know- I love sugar first thing in the morning as much as anyone. But I can also admit that even if I were to eat an entire box of cereal, I would feel sluggish and hungry again in almost no time.
Not to mention how cut up my mouth feels! (Why is that? I ate cereal all the time as a kid and that never happened..)
In reality our meals should be switched, breakfast should look more like a typical dinner, lunch should be packed with protein and veggies, and dinner should be the lightest meal of the day since our body is using that energy to sleep.
Even knowing all of this, it is still hard for me to live it out. Especially because dinner is our family meal, so I want it to be the best and nicest of the day.
There is one simple solution that our family uses and snacking is actually a key part of it-
Marathon meals are the best way to describe it.
Rather than powering through 3 large meals a day that fill our bodies for a while and then lead to a crash, we instead focus on smaller more frequent meals.
Think of it like running a marathon- slow and steady wins the race. Violent bursts of energy may propel you ahead of the group at times, but when the crash comes you fall far behind.
We usually call this the 2pm crash or hitting the wall.
Drive by any Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks at this time and you will see you are not alone.
The truth is though- as much as I love coffee– coffee, desserts, or energy drinks are not what Marathon runners need. Our bodies need good, clean food for consistent energy.
If you put bad gas in your car and it pitters out at the next red light- you don’t go put more bad gas in. In fact, most of us may even avoid that particular gas station- at least for a while.
For some reason though when we fill our bodies with all the wrong forms of energy and pitter out quickly- we return to the same source hoping for a different outcome.
Three meals doesn’t serve most of us well at all.
Instead we are better served by eating when our bodies say we need to. A balanced diet doesn’t happen in a single meal but smaller ones throughout the day also improve our chances of eating the appropriate amount of each food category.
For example, if you don’t veg out in your typical breakfast, make sure veggies are a part of your next meal. And if you felt a lack of protein in that one- up it in the next one!
Okay, now for the big one…
My Kids Won’t Eat Healthy Food…
I hear this all the time.
Almost as if to say: well you got lucky, your kids eat what you give them.
My kids love junk food just as much as any other child.
On Sunday mornings they gravitate towards the people they know carry candy in their purse.
I don’t cut out all typical snack food entirely, but it has no place in our daily lives- because we don’t allow it one.
Mama you are the example. When you scoff at broccoli and chug soda for a quick pick-me-up, guess who deems that as healthy? Yep, your children.
(Please don’t take this offensively, I struggle with this just as much as anybody!)
Most of us would never dream of setting our child up with soda and a piece of birthday cake for breakfast- but we- ourselves- will chug 6 cups of coffee and 2 donuts without batting an eyelash.
The truth is simple: if you want your kids to pray more, let them see you pray.
If you want them to read more, let them see you loving books.
And if you want your children to eat healthy- you need to model healthy eating.
So what do you do if your kids see you making changes and still have no interest?
I have one of those children.
Kids really don’t like to be hungry. Oh sure they can scream and kick and pitch a fit when they don’t get their way- but what does that really do?
It’s not like they can drive to McDonald’s and place an order after you said no.
Sometimes the first step is just acknowledging that you have the authority.
You make the decisions and it doesn’t really matter what they think of it.
If they needed stitches, you wouldn’t care how much they kicked or screamed-you would do whatever it took to make sure their body had what it needed. Healthy food should be viewed the same way.
3 Tips to Encourage Healthy Eating
Changing your children’s diet can feel overwhelming.
Let’s be real- have you ever changed your diet? How did it go?
Yeah I am that person who did the Whole30 for a Whole30 minutes.
Dieting is not my thing!
But this isn’t dieting.
In fact it is the opposite- it is encouragement to eat better options more frequently. You aren’t giving up anything- I want freedom in food for myself, my children, and for you, too.
Here are 3 simple tips to encourage your children to eat better:
(NOTE: I write this as my 9 month old just crawled past me eating a hair tie.. You can’t win them all I guess.)
- Include Your Children in Your Plans for Healthier Eating. I think we are naturally inclined to try and hide dietary changes from our children. That was my original strategy. Hiding carrots in pancakes and veggies in pasta sauce. I still do that- they just know it now. I think one of the best ways to navigate this is through open and honest conversation. Books on healthy eating and simply telling your children you want them to be well and feel well is sometimes all it takes to encourage healthy eating. (Grab some of our favorite healthy eating books below!)
- Don’t Sweat the Dislikes. We have a rule in our house that you must try one bite of everything on your plate before you leave the table. Sometimes certain foods are an acquired taste and eating them more often helps your child to build up their palette. It also could be that they don’t like raw carrots but honey glazed with rosemary is one of their favorite foods. Encourage them to try it, but if they don’t like it- don’t sweat it. We all have foods we don’t like!
- Make it Fun. I love to cook. But when I say I love to cook- I mean I like to get alone in my kitchen with a podcast or some good music and cook. But sometimes I have to lay that aside and welcome small helping hands. It is important that kids know where their food comes from. Talk to them about how that small seed inside an apple will become a tree and grow more apples. Give them a child safe knife and let them cut it for themselves. I’ll post a link to our favorite down below! Children, in general though not always, are more likely to eat what they had a hand in preparing. And time spent together is never time wasted.
Here are 5 Guilt Free Snacks Everyone Will Love
Smoothies are quite simply one of the best, most nutritious snack options for picky kids.
When we first began our homeschool journey I was really struggling to find a way to get little kids to sit and pay attention.
Snacks seemed to be the ticket, but I felt guilty to be dishing out graham crackers and purple tortilla chips all day.
Then I remembered how much they all loved smoothies at my mom’s house- and the rest is history.
Sometimes I will even make them the night before and save them in the fridge for a breakfast companion or quick homeschool treat!
Here is our favorite simple smoothie recipe!
- 2 Bananas
- 1 Avocado
- 5 Strawberries, frozen
- 1 cup Frozen Blueberries
- 1 cup Spinach
- 1/2 cup Orange Juice or Raw Milk Kefir
Add first 5 ingredients to a blender or food processor. Puree then slowly add the kefir (or juice) to until you reach your desired consistency.
These are my go-to cups for smoothies!
Smoothie bowls are a great alternative to a typical smoothie!
Just cut back on the juice or kefir for a thicker consistency.
Then top with blueberries, pumpkin seeds, nuts, coconut or whatever you like- add a drizzle of honey (for your older kids) and Viola!
These have become my absolute favorite go-to snack.
It is simple, healthy, and the kids beg for it! Plus there is no added sugar or baking required!
Simply grab your favorite apples (or a variety) and cut them into slices. Arrange them on a tray and top with shredded coconut, peanut butter, honey, and a dash of cinnamon! You can add any toppings you want: dried cranberries, raisins, nuts- even caramel or mini chocolate chips! Either way these are always a kid friendly crowd pleaser!
(My kids don’t like coconut in general, but they love it on apple nachos!)
Healthy Brownie Balls
I was so hesitant to try these the first time for two reasons.
One, because healthy ‘brownies’ usually taste like cardboard.
And two, they contain dates- which on their own I do not like.
I usually eat dates to aid in childbirth as my due date approaches since they help prepare your body for the labor process- but now I eat date-packed brownie balls all the time. And I love every minute of it!
Nuts, dates, a good quality cocoa, coconut oil, vanilla extract and a quick trip through the food processor is all it takes to create a simple, nutrient dense snack for the whole family.
We store these in a container in the fridge and the kids can easily grab one or two out anytime they are feeling peckish.
These can be made with any kind of nuts- peanuts, almonds, and our personal favorite- walnuts! Walnuts are excellent brain food, but my kids aren’t wild about them- but they love them in this recipe.
Trail mix is my personal go-to for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack.
Making it at home is quick, inexpensive, and you can avoid all the typical trail mix goodies you don’t want like dyed candies.
I usually toss together whatever nuts, raisins, dark chocolate chips or chunks, and anything else we have on hand! Sometimes we will sprinkle in some nutritional yeast or spices!
This is a great way to sneak in extra foods to your child’s diet that they may not eat otherwise!
Anything mixed with chocolate is good, right?
Sometimes it isn’t so much about what you eat, but how you serve it.
I was raised as part of the lunchables generation.
But let’s be real those are sketchy at best and not very filling.
Simple swaps of healthier items in a similar layout are actually really intriguing to small hands.
We made this discovery purely by chance on a night when I didn’t feel like cooking a complete meal, and it was an absolute hit across the board.
Plus the crackers are so simple the kids can make them with very little help from me!
Just pair store-bought or homemade crackers with good quality ham, cheese, turkey, pepperoni, or roast beef! To take it from a simple snack to a filling lunch- just add a hard boiled egg, carrots sticks, or apple slices! (This is great for picnics or outings too!)
10 (More) Simple Guilt Free Snacks
- Carrot Sticks and Ranch
- Cheese Sticks
- Greek yogurt topped with granola, strawberries or blueberries
- Pretzel Sticks in 100% Peanut- Peanut Butter
- Hard Boiled Eggs (Such a simple grab and go to keep stocked in your fridge!)
- Organic Whole Grain Tortilla Chips with Salsa
- Orange Slices
- Bananas cut in half lengthwise, topped with peanut butter, honey, and mini chocolate chips
- Frozen Grapes (Cut in half for small children!)
- Sauerkraut (This one may sound odd to some, but my girls love it! It is easy to make and keep on hand. And who doesn’t love a good gut boost!) Check out our full blog on gut health for your whole family here!
Winning the Snacking Game
From one relatively crunchy Mama to another- I know snack time is usually set up for our failure. But it doesn’t have to be.
Snacking shouldn’t instanly turn our minds to cheese-balls, candy bars, or junk food.
When my kids come in to ask for a snack they always ask for something healthy- because that is all we have and that is all they are going to get.
It doesn’t have to be fancy- a scoop of Greek yogurt with a few dark chocolate chips, a small pack of raisins, even a simple banana is a snack you can feel good about serving.
(An absolute favorite here is frozen blueberries- they are messy, but guilt free!)
You can win snack time, Mama.
And when you don’t- don’t worry- you will get another chance!
Shop This Post!
I Can Eat a Rainbow by Olena Rose(This book is ideal for toddlers and preschool aged children.)
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: by Jonny Bowden (This is great for older kids, and simply reading about the food you are consuming!)
Kids Knife Set- including a wooden toddler knife (for safe cutting and helping in the kitchen!)
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links As an Amazon associate, I make a small commission off of everything purchased through the links on our site. This doesn’t cost you any extra; it just helps out our family!