Getting the kids to eat healthy remains one of my biggest challenges, and sometimes it can feel like a constant struggle (especially with my SUPER picky four year old who has two food groups: bread and cheese). Add in the relaxed feel of the summer and it can feel like an endless stream of hot dogs and bomb pops. That's why I love our snack stations, besides helping the kids make healthy food choices, they save a ton of time all week when you don't need to immediately respond to the "But I'm HUNGRY" demands. Simply direct them to the snack station. Don't like it? Don't eat it, that's my motto. But with a bunch of healthy (and delicious) options, they always find something they wind up enjoying...
First, gather up the supplies. We try to do a mix of fresh fruit and veggies plus a few ready to grab and go snack type items, everything is portioned out though, so they can grab a bag of apple slices or peppers and it's all ready to go. For the littler kids I will even add some peeled oranges and chopped up fruit for easier snacking, all in color coded bags so they can easily figure out what is what. Add in a few drops of lemon juice to the apples to prevent the dreaded "browning" which we ALL know totally ruins apples for childhood consumption, right?!
In our snack station (for local readers all of these can be found at Healthy Living Market and Cafe in Saratoga):
- Siggi's yogurt tubes: we like Siggi's because their flavored varieties have 9-11g of sugar rather than up to 25g of sugar per serving like other mainstream yogurts and are sweetened with fruit and all-natural sweeteners like agave or cane sugar.
- Organic fruits and veggies: we keep it simple with the favorites like carrots and apples, peppers and berries. Occasionally I'll throw in something "new" and see if it works, but right now I'm all about just getting them to eat the healthy stuff and not wasting anything.
- Stretch Island fruit strips go FAST in this house, so we parcel them out, otherwise it would be a fruit strip every single time they get a snack.
- Organic cheese sticks: these are also my favorite and I have to restock them often when I'm hitting up the snack station too. It's an easy way to make sure the kids are getting some healthy dairy in especially since they don't all love to drink milk.
Like I said, the best part is that you take a little bit of prep time to put it together so you're not always having to stop and "make" a snack. I check every morning to make sure it's stocked and we are good to go for the day, the kids all know what their particular limit is on snacks, and when it's too close to mealtimes, I simply move the snack station up out of their reach in the fridge, nice and easy.
I picked up some inexpensive stackable plastic bins at Wal Mart and these fit perfectly on the bottom shelf of our fridge, even the toddler can find what she wants, and nothing is potentially spillable or messy so I feel comfortable with them rummaging around in there. I use paper cups to separate out the cheese and yogurt neatly without it getting too jumbled up.
In general, we skip the juice for the kids and instead everyone has a water bottle which is always filled and ready. There's a spot by the snack station to keep their bottles so if they're thirsty they already know the option. I love the Camelbak bottles for the kids (even the smaller kids), they are virtually spill proof, not too heavy to carry, plus they are dishwasher-safe and BPA-free & BPS-free.
This system works great for the older kids who can grab a snack before we head off to sports (or after sports as is usually the case too with my oldest) and for the littler kids. It helps my four year old feel independent and when left to his own devices he usually winds up eating pretty healthy as long as he gets to choose what it is he wants. The best part? If you're going on a road trip this summer, you just bring the snack station with you and you're ready to go!
Stay tuned for more BEST SUMMER EVER coming this week on Mamatoga.com xoxo