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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Healthy Snacks on a Budget? Easy as PIE

This is a guest post from Debbie at nurturingcreativity.com.


“Mom, I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?”

Sound familiar? As every mother knows, menu planning does not end with mealtimes. In fact, snacks can consume a hefty portion of our grocery bill if we’re not careful. Aisles of cleverly-marketed, conveniently-packaged “kid food” lure us into choices that compromise both our budget and our family’s health. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning and some good, old-fashioned common sense, keeping healthy snacks on hand is as easy as PIE.

First, PREPARE your own snacks. Remember that with any prepackaged snack food, you are paying for convenience. It may take a little more time to make your own granola bars, trail mix, cookies or muffins, but it will save you money and give you peace of mind to know exactly what is going into your children’s bodies. And don’t forget that the best snacks often require no more preparation than washing and cutting up.

Make it easy for your kids to find the snacks. Glass containers with lids are a great option for refrigerated food, like cut up berries, fruit, and veggies. Food that can be seen can be found without help. Divided trays with lids can hold a variety of cut up veggies and hummus or guacamole. If you like your kids to have individual servings ready to go, try using small, Ziplock® bags for trail mix, cookies, granola bars, crackers, etc. You can also post a snack list, either listing a choice of snacks available or a calendar showing the snack(s) for the day.

Next, INCLUDE variety in snack choices and INVOLVE your kids in choosing and preparing healthy snacks.
What a great opportunity we have to educate our kids about nutrition. Your preschooler learns that a colorful plate of raw veggies makes him strong and fast. Your high schooler learns to connect a clear complexion with healthy food choices. Let your children compare the prices of individual containers of applesauce, a jar of applesauce, and a bag of apples. Teach them to read labels and avoid the no-no’s like high-fructose corn syrup.

Variety is important to provide balanced nutrition and gives you a chance to take advantage of sales and produce that is in season. Here are a few simple, frugal choices:

Apples - pair them with cheese or peanut butter to include protein

Celery spread with peanut butter and sprinkled with raisins

Raw bell peppers, broccoli, celery, and baby carrots with hummus or guacamole

Homemade trail mix, granola, and granola bars

Tuna salad

Boiled eggs or deviled eggs

Muffins - Make zucchini, pumpkin, or carrot muffins to sneak in veggies your kids won’t even notice. Mini muffins are a perfect size for small hands.

Homemade oatmeal and raisin cookies

Popcorn - air-popped or made in coconut oil

Peanut butter balls (1/2 cup each: cocoa, natural peanut butter, honey, and oats: coconut and 1 Tbs. coconut oil opt. Chill until firm.)

Yogurt with granola and/or berries

Smoothies

If you have a juicer, apples, carrots, and celery make a sweet (and healthy) juice.

Finally, train your children where and when to EAT. By limiting eating to the dining room or kitchen, you’ll prevent the mess of carpet stains, sticky furniture, and dirty dishes scattered around the house. More importantly, you can help your children learn not to eat mindlessly in response to commercials or while doing other activities.

I’ve read that many of us confuse thirst with hunger, so we grab a snack when we should be reaching for a water bottle. Save money (and you child’s teeth) by foregoing the sugary drinks, including juices. Teach your children to drink water throughout the day. A common guideline seems to be to drink half your body weight in ounces each day, so a 50 pound child would ideally drink 25 ounces per day.

There you have it. PREPARE snacks ahead, INCLUDE variety, and teach your children to make wise choices about what, when and where to EAT. Easy as PIE . . . and healthier too!

Debbie Cox is a homeschooling mother of four who loves to encourage mothers to nurture their hearts and families. She offers gentle inspiration on her blog, nurturingcreativity.com.

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