My Story: Healthy Snacks
contributed by Melinda
Don't Let Munchies Gobble Your Budget
Inexpensive, Healthy Snacks for Kids
Those of us living on a tight grocery budget know how quickly snack foods can eat away at our precious monthly food budget. Even a couple boxes of fruit snacks or granola bars can quickly wipe out money that needs to be used to buy good healthy foods for our families.
As my children grew older, I began to see my grocery bill grow higher and higher. I sat down one afternoon and pored over my grocery receipts for the previous three months. I was surprised at what I found. The only category that I seemed to be buying more of was snack foods! And I realized that most of the snacks my children were eating were not healthy. My children were active, yet they seemed to be gaining too much weight. I was very surprised since most of the snacks I was buying for my children were advertised to be "low in fat" and healthy for my kids. I started reading the nutritional information and ingredients on the snack foods I was feeding the kids. I was shocked! The main ingredient in most of the "low-fat" foods was sugar. The foods may have been low in fat, but they were by no means "healthy" foods. I decided right then and there to eliminate pre-packaged snack foods from my family's diet. In order to keep the kids (and husband!) from grumbling, I had to come up with some ideas and recipes for snack foods that were tasty and appealing to my family.
People snacked on foods for hundreds, if not thousands, of years before fruit chews came out on the market. What did families snack on generations before us when they couldn't buy pudding snack-packs? They snacked on pudding made at home and ate it out of bowls or cups. I could do the same thing! Next, I started thinking about the foods I snacked on when I was a child growing up during the 70s and 80s. My mom never would have spent money on snacks for convenience. In fact, my mom never made snacks for us! I can't think of any kid that I knew during that time that had a mom that made special snacks. Basically, if we were hungry, we pillaged through the fridge and cupboards until we found something to eat.
If nothing could be found, that was okay. We knew another hardy homemade meal was just an hour or two away. The foods that I remember snacking on as a child, and now the healthy snacks that my kids snack on include:
- cinnamon toast
- a leftover piece of cornbread, biscuit, or homemade roll from a previous meal
- boiled eggs
- tuna or egg salad sandwiches
- popcorn (not microwavable!)
- homemade cookies
- gelatin (usually with fruit added in)
- saltines with peanut butter
- a leftover piece of bacon, sausage, or ham that wasn't eaten at breakfast
- leftover pancake with peanut butter rolled in it
- homemade dessert
- banana, pumpkin, apple or zucchini bread
- homemade caramel corn
- homemade granola
- homemade granola bars
- homemade or bulk plain yogurt with jam or granola added for flavor
- slice of homemade bread with butter
Because nutrition is very important to me, I'd like to add that all of the homemade healthy snack items I prepare for my family have some nutritional benefits to them. When I'm making banana bread, I will substitute half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Then, in any "sweet" I prepare, whether it be cookies or chocolate cake, I always reduce the sugar by a third. My family never notices the difference. I will only prepare a snack food for my family if it has some nutritional value. For example, when I bake cookies, I never bake sugar cookies. There is nothing healthy in sugar cookies. Instead, I opt to make oatmeal or peanut butter cookies. Yes, they do have some sugar and fat, but they also contain wholesome ingredients like eggs, peanut butter, whole wheat flour and/or rolled oats.
Finally, I'd like to add that it's important to realize that you are the parent. You are serving your family healthy wholesome foods and don't let your kids make you feel guilty for not buying overly-processed "junk" snack foods. I started serving homemade snacks to my family because I needed to cut down on my grocery budget. Now, even if money wasn't an issue, I still would be serving the same kind of foods and snacks to my family because these snacks are so much healthier for them!
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