Kicking the 'snack cycle'
The UK government has recently introduced a new campaign - Change4life - to encourage healthy eating in children in an attempt to stop the increasing levels of obesity. In short, it encourages parents to give their children only two snacks a day of only 100kcal. Whilst the intentions of the campaign are fantastic there is concern that those with no understanding of nutrition will continue to seek high sugar/high fat ready made options that are branded with a big fat 100kCAL on the packaging when really they'd be a whole lot better giving fresh fruit and vegetables regardless of the calories. It also overlooks nutrient dense but high calorie foods such as nuts which are perfect for kids to snack on but probably edge over the calorie recommendation.
Regardless of this slightly controversial element of the campaign the message is positive and I think every parent will admit that it's too easy to fall into a 'snack cycle*' especially when we have a grumpy, hungry child grabbling at our handbag. I certainly used to stock up in the supermarket kids-aisle and fill my handbag with 'handy' snack options for unforeseen meltdowns. However, one day, when I was pregnant with my second and desperately hungry before nursery pick up I ate one of these 'handy' snacks - it was not only pretty mediocre but also horrendously sugary and from that moment I vowed that I wouldn't buy pre-made snacks other than for travelling/parties/etc. The transformation in Maddie was amazing - she no longer searched my bag trying to find these magical packages, nor did she roam the kitchen attempting to open the snack cupboard. I replaced ready-made bars with energy balls or homemade flapjacks, bags of high-sugar flavoured rice cakes with plain full sized salt free rice cakes topped with peanut butter or hummus, popcorn in place of crisps and fruits and vegetables always as the first option. Admittedly, these were all options before my decision to stop buying ready-made snacks but eliminating the packaged products all together brought a calm to the snacking. Madeleine savoured her food, didn't get so frantic or obsessive about her snacks and the periods between her hunger grew. I'd kicked the 'snack cycle.'
There was one more positive outcome from this decision which I had not anticipated. Now that I don't have the convenience of snacks that last for forever and a day I need to pack healthy alternatively to take out with me. Since these snacks clearly can't sit in my bag for longer than a day (especially not in the heat of Dubai) I realise I offer them to the girls before they even request a snack and unknowingly I find I am anticipating their hungry and nipping it in the bud before they even realised. Its obvious really but with the convenience of readymade snacks I was forgetting to ask and Madeleine was having to request it once she was already hungry and we all know that it's better not to wait until you are really hungry to eat.
So for all the reasons above I highly recommend giving yourself a break from the kids-aisle in the supermarket and exploring all the healthier snack options out there for your family. Here are my six favourite healthy snacks for all the family to help you kick the cycle.
*too many snacks = no mealtimes
The photo above is a mango lassi but you can just use whatever fruit you have available for the recipe. I try and keep smoothies, juices and milkshakes for weekends or special occasions but this particular recipe is also fantastic as a quick breakfast- especially if you throw in a handful of oats for an extra dose of energy.
These crisps are such a fantastic snack to have handy anytime of the day and and are perfect in lunch boxes. As with my sweet potato crisps the key is getting the slices thin and consistent [I use a mandolin] and although they take a while in the oven you can really leave them to it and the result is definitely worth while. Totally. Addictive.
Popcorn barely needs a recipe but its such a fantastic snack option for kids and adults that I had to include it. I personally like my popcorn savoury but you can add some maple syrup or agave if you want a sweet hit. I also love mine with a teaspoon of marmite (don't judge!).
Banana + Oats + Butter + Maple Syrup. And thats it. My daughter and I make a huge batch of these every fortnight and pop them in the freezer for a post nursery treat. It is literally the quickest and easiest flapjack recipe you'll find and so so delicious that you won't believe there are only four ingredients in them.