Sunday, June 01, 2014

Healthy Snacks for Busy Kids (and Grown-ups)

Today's guest post is by  Leslie Vandever.

Summer: the season of family fun-in-the-sun has arrived! When the weather is warm and friendly, a variety of energetic activities—both indoors and outdoors—are high on everyone’s list of priorities. Nutrition on the run can be tricky with kids. It’s not only hard on the pocketbook, it can also be tough to find healthy, natural snacks and meals away from home.

With just a little planning, however, eating on the run can be simple and fun. And the amount of effort you spend on prep is entirely up to you.

Food in Nature’s Packaging
The easiest foods for snacks and meals are the ones that Mother Nature came up with. They don’t require any (or much) preparation, and you can eat them directly out-of-hand:
·         apples
·         grapes
·         bananas
·         blueberries
·         orange sections
·         tangerines
·         celery sticks
·         red, yellow, and orange bell peppers
First, be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables before serving.

You can eat apples just as they are, but to make them easier for small hands, teeth, and appetites, peel (or not—the peels add extra-healthy fiber and nutrients) and slice them into thin wedges, then pack into easy-to-carry, recycled containers or plastic bags. Mixing green apples with red and yellow varieties with their peels on makes them even more colorful and appealing. If you have time to pack a small, lunch-sized cooler to carry them in, that’s great. But they’ll keep for several hours tucked into a purse or tote, too.

Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are surprisingly crunchy and sweet, perfect for pint-sized tastes and appetites.

Try freezing fruit, such as grapes, before packing. Not only will they stay cool and refreshing as they thaw, they’re also delicious and fun to eat still frozen. Bananas cut into bit-size pieces and frozen solid are a sweet, creamy, incredibly ice-cream-like surprise. Frozen bell peppers are also crunchy and yum.

Natural, Nutritious, Crunchable Nuts
Nuts have to be one of the best and most portable snacks for kids and adults alike. Better, they’re also amazingly healthy. If you buy them in bulk at your local health-food store or in the health-food section at the grocery store, they’ll be a little less expensive—and a lot healthier.

If you like your nuts—almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, for instance—spiced, you can add it at home. (Not peanuts, though. They soften when heated, so they’re not a good candidate for seasoning.)

Just coat the nuts—lightly—in a little bit of canola or coconut oil, drain, toss and coat in your seasoning of choice. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on cookie sheets, and toast them in a preheated, 250-degree oven for about 45 minutes, turning the nuts every 15 minutes or so. Store in an air-tight container for up to three weeks. Try garlic powder, curry powder, cinnamon,  Chinese five-spice, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Be Ready to Rumble
You’re always on the go, ready to roll to the softball or soccer game, the zoo, the local swimming pool, and even to the library. Cut up your fruit and vegetable snacks ahead of time and freeze them, ready to grab, drop into a tote or a mini-cooler, and hit the road. Keep nuts and other snacks, like wholegrain crackers, in airtight containers, ready to pour into plastic bags or other, smaller containers for travel. Keep a roll of paper towels, moistened towelettes, and an extra bag for trash in the car.

Oh! And have a terrific—and healthy—summer!

 Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California. The opinions shared are entirely her own.

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