Kids are fussy eaters – and Olney daycare staff are likely the first ones to admit that! However, these dedicated and trained child care professionals know that feeding healthy snacks is also critical. While child care professionals have the advantage of training and experience to guide them in making healthy snacks, here are some great ideas for parents to try at home. Kids will eat healthy…and they’ll love it!
Setting the Table
Before we lay out what’s on the healthy snack food menu, here are some tips to consider when creating your healthy snack plan:
With these points as your cornerstone, you’re now ready to plan a healthy kids snack fest. The items we’ve listed here are healthy, they’re easy to make, and they don’t require much prep time. Plus, all the ingredients are readily available – either in your refrigerators, on your pantry shelf, or at a nearby grocery store.
What’s on the Menu?
It may be helpful for you to plan your snacks ahead of time – perhaps for the entire week. Some of these ideas are, however, best prepared freshly – like fixings for the Pita pocket idea. Others, like the smoothies and fries, can be prepared in advance and stored for later consumption.
Kids often make a fuss over eating their veggies. However, when they’re in daycare in Olney MD, the staff use ingenious methods to entice young kids to eat healthy – including a generous portion of vegetables. At home, parents and home caregivers can use this same approach to get their growing child to eat celery:
Cut a stalk of Celery into half, and spread a light layer of jam (sugar-free), butter or margarine on it – don’t over saturate the vegetable with PB. Then, stick a few grains of raisins along the path of the PB, mimicking ants crawling on a log. The game might involve eating as many ants as possible – each bite of celery that the child takes gets them more ants. But the result is that the child eats their vegetables in a fun way!
This combination of Celery and Jam, Margarine or Butter, with Raisins, delivers a healthy portion of proteins, carbs and fats to the child. Be mindful that neither the PB nor the raisins have extra sugars added, and that the PB used is a low-fat variety.
Young and growing kids indulge in plenty of physical activities – running, jumping, skipping, and jostling. As such, they need healthy bones. One of the best ways to ensure kids’ bones develop, is by adding calcium to their snack box. Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein, which gives kids stamina and strengthens their bones. Some varieties of this kid’s favorite snack also contain trace amounts of live bacteria that’s helpful for the child’s digestive systems.
The one caution about yogurt as a healthy snack idea is that some manufacturers load their products with sugar, which isn’t too healthy for your child in large amounts. When choosing healthy yogurt, go for the plain, unsweetened, full-fat version. You can then sweeten it with fresh fruits or raisins. Honey is also a great natural sweetener to add to unsweetened yogurt. However, doctors typically advise against feeding honey to infants and babies under 12-months[i] old for fear of botulism infections.
Are you afraid of including nuts in your child’s diet for fear of potential allergic reactions? Well, that is certainly a valid concern, and one that even Olney daycare staff take seriously. That’s why extreme care is exercised to ensure children at the center only eat healthy and appropriate snacks and meals. However, parents, here’s some good news:
You can actually produce healthy, nutritious trail mix without nuts!
Occasionally adding a serving of trail mixes to your child’s snack tray may give them some healthy nutritional fats, dried fruits, antioxidants and much needed fiber. As with all snack items, however, read the labels carefully for high content of fatty oils and sugars. If, as a parent, you are concerned about such ingredients, then feel free to make your own healthy trail mixes by buying healthier ingredients and mixing them together.
One simple to make recipe calls for mixing dried cranberries, Chex Mix (kids love chocolate flavor), Pretzel sticks and some Honeycomb cereal. To liven things up, add a handful of M&M, Yogurt-covered raisins, and Cheez-Its. Simply toss a handful of this delight into their lunch baggies, and your kids will love it!
While many parents might think oatmeal is just breakfast food, it’s also an excellent snack food. High in soluble fiber, oatmeal has a positive impact on a child’s gut health by promoting the growth of friendly bacteria along their digestive tract. For kids with gluten allergies, pure oats might be an option because they are gluten-free. Oatmeal is also an excellent source of other important minerals and vitamins needed for a child’s growth.
One idea to make oatmeal a fun snack is to form oatmeal balls and oatmeal cookies. Lace these bite-sized treats with M&Ms and raisins, or pieces of dry fruit, and watch how kids devour them! You should stay away from flavored varieties of oatmeal, because they contain added sugars. To make oatmeal snacks and treats more palatable, add a dollop of sugar-free jam or marmalade when creating your cookies and balls. And to make these treats even healthier with added calcium, use milk (2% or less fat) instead of water.
The snack and lunch menus at daycare in Olney MD contain a healthy serving of vegies, but parents at home often find it challenging to get their kids to eat a healthy selection of vegetables. This is another fun (and sneaky!) way to include vegies in your kid’s snack selections.
Cut open a whole wheat pita pocket, and line it with a sliver of hummus, which is a healthy spread made primarily from chickpeas. Then, finely slice up a mix of raw vegies, including cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and lettuce, and lay them on a platter. The fun is this idea is to make kids stuff their selection of vegies in the pita “boat”, and to take the vegies on a trip – into their mouths!
While you can also use blanched or boiled vegetables, like peas and diced cauliflower, raw vegies have greater amounts of minerals and vitamins. Including a variety of coloured vegetables, like green, yellow and red bell peppers, and tomatoes of various colors, you can also make the game a challenging sibling event: Who can make the most colorful boat!
Not all your kids’ snacks need to be solids. Like yogurt, there are also fun and healthy non-solid snack ideas for you to try out. And one such item to include is smoothies. Depending on the ingredients you choose, the smoothie can be a high source of fiber, vitamins, proteins and minerals. Berry smoothies, comprising a mix of berries, such as blue, black and strawberries, are also a great source of antioxidants that are healthy for gut and digestive systems’ health. Bananas, apples, and other fresh fruit can also make a nice addition into smoothies.
When choosing a recipe for your smoothies, stay away from high-fat or added-sugar ingredients. You can use healthy versions of milk and yogurt as the base, and add a selection of fresh fruits and berries, and sugarless (or low in sugar) dried fruit to the mix.
As parents, you’ve likely heard of the dangers of French fries loaded in fat from the processing they get during preparation. Staff at Olney daycare centers are conscious about only including healthy snacks and treats for their young learners. While snacks, like French fries, may be great in moderation, there are healthier options for fries – Sweet potato fries! These come comparatively lower (than French fries) on the glycemic index[ii] – which means kids predisposed to diabetes can also enjoy them in moderation. Besides, they’re also packed with higher amounts of vitamin A and fiber, and are highly saturated in beta-carotene[iii], a nutrient that supports skin and eye health.
You can create a variety of healthy kids’ snacks with sweet potatoes, including baking them in the form of loaf bread, and using them as pie fillings. However, simply drizzling some healthy olive oil on them, and sprinkling some iodized salt and pepper, and baking them in an over, makes a scrumptious snack.
MCCA has been recognized by the Maryland State Legislature for its commitment to Montgomery County issued a quality programs and special needs child care Proclamation in 2016 to MCCA for its commitment to Montgomery County child care for more than 50 years. MCCA was also selected as a 2018 nonprofit finalist for a MOXIE Award for boldness and innovation
MCCA is the oldest nonprofit licensed child care provider in Montgomery County and started its work in 1968 as a Community Action Project of the War on Poverty. Recognizing the need for quality child care programs in their neighborhoods, a group of local activists formed an association to establish centers in Montgomery County that would serve a diverse population and establish high standards for child care. Now, more than 50 years later, MCCA’s dedicated and expertly trained staff continue their tradition of providing high quality child care and play-based education for children.
Families with school aged children who can afford their child care expenses during the school year often struggle to afford the all-day programs they need when school is out for the summer. The Richard Krampf Summer Adventures Scholarship Fund was established to help provide children a safe and stimulating place to spend their weeks when school is out. Please contact an MCCA Director for details on how to apply.