Easy Healthy Kids Snacks – Keeping It Interesting
The best way to make easy healthy kids snacks and keeping it interesting is imagination, simplicity and wholesome ingredients. Thinking outside the box helps just for something original or different. Some of these ideas include prepackaged organic snacks but many of them are made at home and taken with us on road trips, on airplanes, trains, buses or field trips. A small flat ice pack comes in handy for taking items along that need some chilling or in their school lunchboxes for sandwiches that need a bit of chilling before lunchtime.
Sandwiches are a favorite for my munchkins. There are endless possibilities as broad as your imagination. There’s always good ‘ol peanut butter and jelly but wait…..not just any PB&J. Here we have so many different jellies and jams and types of peanut butter or spreadable kinds of butter. Don’t forget Nutella. Just try to limit how much you spread on the bread, as it has a lot of sugar in it. It’s made with hazelnuts, and as long as it’s used sparingly, it’s a fun surprise once in awhile.
Types of jelly and jam my kids like – If we aren’t picking berries from where ever we find them and making our own jelly, we buy jelly and jam with the fewest ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a natural preservative like ascorbic acid or the ingredients are all organic. My kids love strawberry, grape, orange marmalade, lemon (we are in Ireland at the moment, soooo good), apple, gooseberry, lingonberry, blackberry, black currant or cherry. Preserves are always good as well.
We used to live where we could pick mulberries along the road and we would make our own jelly. We are currently in southern Ireland and a couple months ago, we could have pick blackberries all along the roads here until we were sick of them – there are so many growing wild.
How to fix up a sandwich in a way that looks irresistible- instead of regular white or wheat bread, try a lettuce wrap, tortilla wrap, brown soda bread, bagel sandwich or waffles cut up for the bread or pita bread with a pocket to fill with your favorite layers of yummy food. Fill these different breads with thin slices of turkey, cheese with a little cranberry sauce and lettuce or a smear of mashed potatoes. It’s like Thanksgiving on the go. You can also substitute potato with sweet potato smears over the bread. Peanut, Almond, cashew or other kinds of nut butter with their favorite jelly or jam is also a hit, as well as chicken salad or egg salad or once in awhile tuna fish. You don’t want to use tuna fish any more often than maybe twice a month as they are higher in mercury than most fish. Mercury can accumulate in the body and brain and cause chronic problems in many people. We try and stay away from any seafood that is farmed and away from or limit fish high in mercury such as tuna, swordfish, larger fish in general. Wild caught shrimp is best not the farmed stuff that comes from Asia.
Here is a homemade jelly recipe you might consider trying out at home with your kids and have a chemistry lesson in the kitchen together — this recipe is tailor-made for kids ages 5-10 depending on the child. It has about 9-10 grams of sugar per serving.
Jelly and jams are full of pectin but it’s really not good for you and it’s not necessary to put it in at all. Where does pectin really come from when it’s in a packet at the store?
You can make summer berry jam with just the fruit, lemon juice, and sugar in about 30 minutes at home. Jam made without pectin is a little softer and looser than jam made with pectin, but learning this technique means that you can make jam at almost any time with ingredients you probably have on hand. The secret to making jam without pectin is time.
How To Make Basic Fruit Jam Makes 2 (8-ounce) jars.
What You Need–
1. Ingredients 5 cups fresh berries (about 1 pound), such as blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries
2. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3. 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4. Pinch salt
1. 2 or 3 metal spoons
2. Knife and cutting board
3. Measuring cups and spoons
4. 2- to 3-quart heavy-bottomed pot
5. Potato masher or large fork
6. Heatproof spatula or wooden spoon
7. 2 clean (8-ounce) jars with lids
Prepare the berries. Cut the berries into large chunks, discarding any heavily bruised sections.
Place a few clean metal spoons in the freezer.
Combine the fruit and sugar in a medium pot.
Place the fruit, sugar, lemon, and salt in a 2-to 3-quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and mash the fruit a little with a potato masher or large fork into a chunky texture.
Cook the fruit and sugar.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring frequently.
Continue to boil while keeping an eye on it, still stirring frequently, until the fruit is jammy and thick, about 20 minutes.
Begin checking the fruit for doneness. Start checking to see if the jam is set.
Remove a spoon from the freezer and dribble several drops of the jam onto the spoon. Wait a few seconds, and then run a finger through the jam. If it leaves a distinct track in the jam, it is done. If it runs back in on itself, keep cooking the jam and test again a few minutes later.
Cool the jam and move it to two jars.
Turn off the heat and carefully transfer the jam into 2 clean (8-ounce) glass jars.
Cool to room temperature.
Seal, label with the type of fruit and the date and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Recipe Notes Freezing this jam: You can also freeze this jam for up to 3 months. Just be sure to leave 1/2-inch of room at the top of the jar so the jam can expand while freezing.
A Note about Pectin—The reason we use pectin at all is to make sure there is a consistent gelled look to the final product. Take home message about pectin –
Avoid Prepackaged pectin when you really are looking for a homemade toxin-free product.
3 take home points about why prepackaged pectin should stay on the shelf –
1. It is GMO – a genetically modified ingredient like pectin is frequently made from GMO corn unless the package says ORGANIC- certified organic.
2. Don’t ever trust the word “natural” as this can be found on all “natural ” fruit forms of pectin and they have ingredients like dextrose and citric acid in them, both of which are also made from corn.
Look at one of the most popular product from the store – Sure-Jell – its used by most people doing home canning. Read the label, the ingredients will shock you once you get up on what’s really in it – dextrose, citric acid, fruit pectin. Fruit pectin isn’t bad by itself but the dextrose and citric acid is – as they both are GMO (Genetic Modified Organism).
3. An important pearl about fruit pectin is it’s full of sugar. It takes a lot of sugar in a jelly or jam recipe to ensure the pectin will work the right way and they mix properly. I mean 50-90% of the final jelly or jam has to be sugar so the fruit pectin will actually work. That’s more sugar than fruit has in it. This is not really what I had in mind when gathering up everything at home to make something healthier for my little munchkins.
Well believe it or not there is a seemingly benign sounding product ….. with low sugar pectin but they should also remain on the flat cold shelf they were stocked on in the store. Why? Because calcium will stick together with the low sugar type of pectin which means you can use much less sugar or none at all or use Stevia instead. Sounds good at first glance, but even the low sugar pectin is a poor choice because it too is GMO! Oh my goodness, not this too?!
Just to show you what’s in Sure-Jell-
Here you are – it has dextrose (made from GMO corn), fruit pectin, fumaric acid, sodium citrate.
One of the low sugar brands, Pomona’s Universal Pectin, is made from 100% citrus derived ingredients but not organic. So with all citrus products being highly sprayed with pesticides one group of them being called cholinesterase inhibitors, we are eating something that can irritate and be toxic to our nervous system. I don’t think my kids or yours really need that in order to perform well at school or at anything.
In the processing of citrus fruit, all of the fruit comes to the factory, one hundred percent of every piece of the fruit is thrown into the machines for processing, acid sprays are added to make sure even the oil from the citrus peel and every bit of juice is pulled from the fruit.
I Should probably stop ranting about GMO stuff and leave it alone for now, but if you want more specific information about it – including how to avoid toxic food ingredients, HERE is a handy food label decoder, so you are never left wondering what you are putting in your families mouth again. Visit this link to explore his informative products to keep you and your kids healthy and reduce your risk of disease.
This makes for some very toxic residues left in your jelly or jam. These residues are in the final product but are not included in the labeling of the food or jelly or jam, yet you will read “citrus pectin” on the labels in the grocery stores.
What happens when you mix pectin in a packet with hard water high in calcium – your jelly or jam will come out way to firm or like rubber.
You might like to know something good though! – don’t add pectin. Your jelly and jam will turn out just fine and this is why!
Use fruit that is made high in pectins like apples, crabapples, currants, raspberries, plums, lemons and most other berries. Add fruit that is already very ripe and wash it well before cooking it . You do not need to soak fruit in water.
Never forget to remove all stems, skin and remove pits then cut into pieces.
For delicious jelly and jams without adding pectin, choose about 75% ripe fruit and 25% under-ripe fruit.
What you want don’t want to use is canned or frozen fruit juice as the pectin is way too low in those products.
Have fun and crush the soft ripe fruit and berries, and cut all of the under-ripe fruit into small chunks.
Use the peels and cores into the mix when you start the cooking phase, as this helps add more pectin from a natural source that will look beautiful on a warm piece of homemade bread.
If you just can’t resist using pectin in your jelly, then make your own at home and here is one way you can do it the toxin-free non-GMO homemade way–
Wash seven large organic apples.
1. Don’t peel them. Green Granny Smith apples work well too. You can also try crabapples. ( I grew up with many of these lovely trees in my backyard. The memories of tasting that jelly are unforgettable. My dad made crabapple jelly at home straining it through old t-shirts stretched between two old chairs with a bucket or two underneath. That was some of the best jelly I’ve ever eaten.)
So back to reality- 🙂
2. Cut up the apples into small pieces.
3. Add about 4 cups of water and 4 teaspoons of organic lemon juice. If you are really ambitious you could use freshly squeezed lemon juice, organic as well. It is the highest in pectin as far as lemon juices go. ( when you get a chance look up getting the most benefits from lemons by freezing them first then using them to make things including the rind-so it’s essential they be organic lemons).
4. Boil this all up together for about 35-45 minutes, strain using unbleached cheesecloth.
5. Boil juice for a second time for about 20 minutes, then pour into sterilized jars and seal up.
Time for a teaching moment— If you want to do a little experiment – this part needs extra care education for the kids so they understand it is not to be consumed. Stir in 2 teaspoons of grain alcohol into one teaspoon of fruit juice, and if it turns into a chunky gel-like substance, you have enough pectin, or you can use the frozen spoon method discussed earlier in the post. If there’s not enough pectin in it then you will only see flaky pieces of sediment and it won’t gel up.
Types of peanut butter or other nut butters we use and like- most organic brands are pretty good. Our favorites are-
Regular peanut butter vs organic brands- like night and day. One of the major differences is regular peanut butter has a lot more sugar in it, usually in the form of HFCS – (High Fructose Corn Syrup), and your body does not metabolize them the same way no matter what you hear the TV commercials or what anyone else tells you. The University of California Los Angelas Medical School did a study on this and the liver deals with HFCS similarly to when someone drinks an alcoholic beverage and you pack on fat, it is not used for energy, whereas sugar is metabolized and used for energy. You still have to regulate your sugar intake overall as well. Fungicides are used on peanuts and you don’t know how long the nuts have been sitting around in or out of the sun while those chemicals drowning them.
Allergies to peanuts – my thoughts on that challenge – Try sunflower butter, as it is a good substitute for this and it comes in regular and organic to avoid the pesticides. When your kids go to a school where no peanut butter products can come into the building, you have to make sandwiches with sunflower butter instead. See your choices here for organic sunflower butter – here
and for organic peanut butter – here
Eight types of foods account for 90% of all food-allergy reactions: cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamia nuts), fish, shellfish, soybeans, and wheat.
Pesticides and fungicides are linked with a rise in tree nut allergies in the USA and the world where they are being used. This is the main reason why I only buy organic peanut butter and other similar products. Our livers can deal with a lot of pesticides fairly well, but why push it as you never know who will have a problem next. I don’t know about you, but a peanut allergy is something that is a big inconvenience and makes parents worry all day long while they are away from their children thinking about the possibility of peanut exposure. It only takes a little bit of the dust off peanuts to start a cascade of reaction.
Beef Jerky and Bars-
My kids love jerky and our favorite is organic beef jerky. It is a quick source of protein that satisfies while on the road or in the air traveling anywhere. I try not to leave home on a trip without nut and dried fruit mixtures, beef jerky, fresh fruit, usually bananas apples and oranges as well as organic oat bars of some kind. Check out our favorite jerky here. Organic protein bars that we have tried after many failures at the taste test station in our house is the Nugo organic bar, check it out here.
Fruit and Veggie Rollups From Scratch-
A simple and awesome way to get creative with a changeup from sandwiches is to roll up turkey and cheese and whatever you like to put with it rolled up in a large lettuce leaf or a tortilla flour is best. The kids love the crunch of lettuce and they usually don’t expect it when I do it. My kids are the kind who will eat fresh vegetables including lettuce (any other than iceberg) right out of a bowl without any dressing on them. I love it. It makes me feel like I’ve really made veggie lovers out of them. You can do this too by starting them out on a routine of fresh lettuce with other vegetables early and every chance you get.
Nothing is as full of fiber and filling up ability than fresh fruit. Keep a variety around every day. In season choices are the best of course.
We eat more apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, dates, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and mangos than you would believe. With 5 kids in my house, they go through 10 apples in a day and around 6-8 oranges a day. The berries we put in hot cereal or eat as a snack with nuts. I don’t leave home without fruits, nuts, jerky, raisins, and protein bars of some organic variety. It doesn’t matter if we are going for a 1/2 day shopping thing, or we’re getting on a plane, their backpacks have a little of all of these foods in them for added calories in between meals. It keeps them all happy, focused and nicer to one another. Plenty of water, bottled when we are traveling reverse osmosis is the best choice while traveling when it’s available, as it comes in smaller bottles for individual kids to have or distilled water is sold in most stores but usually only in gallon plastic bottles. Inside airports, the best you can hope for is finding bottled water that is filtered by reverse osmosis after you go through security and keep a couple of bottle in your backpack. What I do with my kids while traveling by plane or train, is keep a bottle for each of them in their own backpacks as well as their own snacks in a big ziplock bag along with extra napkins and a book or small toy to occupy them along the way.
Water and plenty of it and Homemade bread or Organic bread if at all possible –
Kids over 12 months of age need about 1 liter a day if not sweating, but after the age of 5-6 1 1/2 liters and older than that if very active can be up to 2 liters a day.
Kids over 12 months of age need about 1 liter a day if not sweating, but after the age of 5-6 1 1/2 liters and older than that if very active can be up to 2 liters a day.
Hope you enjoyed today’s post
Happy Healthy Munchkins
Dr. Leigh Gilburn