It's that time again....back to school!! (yay for parents! Or not...) That means back to the grind of struggling to get your kids out of bed and ready in the morning, packing lunches and snacks, helping with homework, all that fun stuff. I thought I'd do a post on store bought snacks (because we can't be Martha Stewart all the time) and some brands that I recommend for when you're in a pinch.
I know it’s easy to just grab boxed snacks without looking while grocery shopping and throw them into lunch kits. You don’t have to spend 7 hours on a Sunday baking muffins and making homemade snacks, avoiding boxed products like the plague. There are some decent alternatives out there (used sparingly) to help out when you just have no time or energy to make those extras yourself.
Goldfish- pretty sure every kid loves these (I still do myself) and they’re not the best but not the worst. I found an alternative brand called “Annie’s”. They make cheddar bunnies, graham cracker bunnies, cheddar squares, gummies and mac and cheese (they even have gluten-free and grass-fed dairy options). I like this brand because although their ingredients are similar to the Goldfish brand, they focus on good quality ingredients. They do use organic ingredients but not all of them are. They have a ton of information on their website about their farming practices, soil quality, even the process of their packaging. I found it all super informative. Now I know busy parents probably don’t have the time to go on every website of every brand they buy and look up all this information, which is why I’m breaking it down into an easy read for you! Sometimes you just need to have a box of mac and cheese on hand, it happens and it’s okay!!
Side note: I feel like I’m a very realistic RHN, meaning I know life gets busy and sometimes you don’t have extra time to meal prep or make dinner. It’s why I like to find brands that are “Nutritionist Approved” for those days where you just need something you know everyone will eat that’s quick and easy. I have a very 80/20 mentality. 80% of the time I like to eat clean, have my meals prepped, all that stuff. 20% of the time I let myself indulge, whether that’s at a family dinner, a birthday, or on a Friday night when its been a long week and I just want pizza and a glass of wine. Okay back to business-
I remember rice crispy squares were the best when I was a kid. Everyone got them for lunch. My lunches were usually pretty healthy and I rarely got food like that, which I look back at now and appreciate (thanks mom). We used to make them at home around Christmas time and that’s really the only time I got to eat them. There’s a lot of junk in store bought ones, but I recently came across a brand that I bought for my boyfriend to try (I’m always trying to sneakily switch the snacks he buys, muaha) and he actually liked them! They’re by the brand “Made Good” which use organic, gluten-free and non-GMO ingredients in their products. They are also all nut-free which is great for school snacks as most schools are nut-free now. There are some added sweeteners but compared to other products, there isn’t a huge amount per serving. (still be mindful of ingredients!) They also have granola bars, granola minis, soft cookies and cereals. I haven’t tried the cookies or cereal, but their other products are yummy!
**tip- these can be kind of expensive normally, but on sale they’re super reasonable and you can even buy them in bulk at Costco
Another brand I got to know really well is Love Child Organics. Every kid I've worked with has these snacks, so I decided to look into their brand and company. Everything they use is organic, and non-GMO. There aren't added fillers, sugars or junk like most snacks have. They're also really affordable which is important and a bonus! They have everything from baby cereals and teething crackers to toddler granola bars, fruit and veggie pouches (my favourite for convenience) and rice cakes. They're easy to find in most grocery stores and kids love them!!
Fruit roll-ups were also the go-to snack for most kids. Those and gushers (do they still even make those?). I looked at the ingredients list of those and I don’t even know what half of the ingredients are. The first is sugar and that’s when you want to avoid, avoid, avoid!! There is nothing good about those two snacks and I honestly wouldn’t even give it out as a treat. There’s so many other options that those are not necessary.
My alternative to those is a little more time consuming and definitely for a day when you know you’re going to be at home all day (maybe a rainy day). They’re homemade fruit leather strips and they’re so easy to make. You can even hide veggies in there. Your kids will never know! Here’s what you do;
· 5 cups fresh or frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, they all work!) **if using fresh, the mixture might be a little thick, you can add a couple tablespoons of water to thin it out, but not so thin that it’ll run off the baking sheet
· 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
· ¼ cup honey or maple syrup (optional)
(some veggie options could be steamed beets, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, kale. If adding veggies, add 1 cup of veggies and less 1 cup of fruit)
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
2. Puree all ingredients until smooth.
3. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets (you can find them here) Pour mixture onto sheets and spread into a thin, even layer.
4. Place in over and cook until firm and it’s no longer sticky (this will take about 3-4 hours)
5. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
6. Cut into strips with parchment paper attached (if using)and roll into rolls. Store in an airtight container.
My last alternative is for store bought cookies or brownies. These can also have a ton of added sugar, preservatives and chemicals that aren’t needed. I have a recipe for black bean brownies (I made these for a family dinner and didn’t tell anyone how they were made. My uncle, who does not like anything of the healthy variety, probably had about 4. He loved them!! ) I haven’t had one person not like them. They’re super fudgy and taste just like (if not better) regular brownies.
They’re so easy to make, you just throw everything into a blender. Here’s how it’s done;
· 1 ½ cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
· 2 tbsp cocoa powder
· ½ cup oats (rolled or quick)
· ¼ tsp Himalayan salt
· 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
· ¼ cup coconut oil
· 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
· ½ tsp baking powder
· ½ cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor or blender and blend until completely smooth.
3. Stir in the chocolate chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. (you can sprinkle on additional chocolate chips if you want)
4. Cook for 15-18 minutes, then let cool completely before cutting.
These are gluten free and can be made vegan is using dairy free chocolate chips. They’re loaded with protein, fibre and healthy fats. A great option for a yummy treat!
These aren’t meant to be used as everyday snacks, but as treats or for emergencies, they’ll do! Always turn to whole foods when possible. That’s where your little ones are going to get all the nutrients they need for busy days ahead!!