School is out and summer is here! If you’re a mom, this means you should probably get your pantry stocked because you know your kids are about to turn into snack monsters and be eating All. Day. Long. It always amazes me how much food we go through over the summer when the kids are home.
I’m excited to share some of my go-to pantry snacks and you can rest assured that these are simple and don’t require much work. You know when you search online for healthy kid snacks and they give you all of these cute ideas but they take some time and effort? While I’d love to be the mom who makes cute little cut-out star-shaped fruit pizzas every afternoon, I’m just not. At least not on most days. And I bet you probably feel the same way.
I’m going to share some of my kids favorite pantry snacks that don’t take a lot of work but first here are a few tips to keep in mind when stocking your pantry.
All processed foods aren’t created equal. Yes the majority of processed foods aren’t quite as nutritious as fresh, whole foods but there are some great processed foods out there that can add great nutritional value and convenience to your busy days.
So what should you be looking for when it comes to snacks for your kids? Just like adults, all kids have different nutritional needs. If your kid is an athlete and very active, they’re going to need more calories than a child who is not active. Same goes for a kid who may be struggling to gain weight and grow. Finding foods that are higher in calories for a smaller volume (hello caloric density!) will be important for them.
For most active kids, they are going to need foods higher in carbohydrates and protein to sustain their energy and muscle repair. You may be wondering how many grams of carbs and protein and the answer is that it’s hard to say. This is going to be dependent on their age, weight, and activity level.
Most kids aren’t going to need more than a 15-20 gram of protein snack, so use caution with protein supplements for your kids because too much protein can be hard on their kidneys. Unless you have a big teenager, adult protein supplements will probably be too much for your younger kiddos and more protein isn’t always better.
Here are a few dietitian approved (and dietitian’s kid approved!) snacks to stock your pantry with this summer:
- Clif Mini Builder Bar
- Turkey stick and a Z Bar
- Kodiak Protein Granola Bar
- Annie’s cheddar bunnies with a side of Greek yogurt
- Popcorn and babybel cheese
- Pretzel sticks and peanut butter
- ½ peanut butter sandwich with a sliced apple
Here are a few tips to help make snack time easy:
- Purchase special snack baskets for your pantry and put all approved snacks in those baskets so your kids know which snacks they can have anytime.
- Teach your kids that when they grab something from the pantry, they also have to have a snack from the fridge. Think things like fruit, yogurt, cheese sticks, etc to add color and nutrients.
- Put items like cookies, candy, and treats up high and out of sight.
- If they’re not eating much at meals because they’re filling up on snacks, put a time frame around snack time so they aren’t snacking right up until meal time.
Even though I wouldn’t consider these snacks, I do think it’s important to review. Just say no to sugary drinks as much as possible. If your kids have a soda from time to time like when you go out to eat or at a birthday party or on the weekend it’s not going to be a huge deal, but if they are drinking 3 juice boxes or sodas a day while they’re home, those really add up on the sugar and empty calories.
Things like regular soda, juice, and juice box drinks add a TON of sugar and calories that your kids do not need. 1 can of coke has 39 grams of added sugar. The recommended daily limit for added sugar for kids is 25 grams. Juice boxes can have quite a bit as well so check the labels when you’re shopping. Even the ones that say “100% fruit juice” can have the most added sugar.
Choose things like water, low fat milk, or a calorie free drink like Zevia, Crystal Light or even the Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters only has 8 grams of added sugar in a pouch so if you’re looking for a flavored drink for the kids, try one of those.
Things to limit:
Though you know I’m a firm believer of no foods being off limits, there should probably be parameters around that. Think about foods with empty nutrition like fruit snacks, Pop Tarts, Hostess cakes, and cookies. Do my own kids eat these? Sometimes! But these aren’t items we have regularly stocked in our pantry unless it’s a special occasion or if the grandparents come visit and bring the goods!
It’s helpful to teach your kids that there are some foods that will provide them with more nutritional value than others. They should know that it’s still okay to have Oreos from time to time but that these won’t provide them much helpful nutrition if they eat them daily.
As the parent, you are in full control over the foods offered to your kids when they’re home. So if you don’t want them eating it, don’t bring it home from the store.
The best thing you can do as a parent is teach your kids balance and how to pick good snacks. Childhood obesity is at an all-time high due to kids eating more calories than their body’s need and inactivity. Just like adult obesity, childhood obesity sneaks up gradually over time. Remember it’s not the treats they have one day a week, it’s what they eat on a regular basis that has the most impact on their health.
I hope this helps give you some helpful ideas for snacks to stock your pantry this summer! Remember to encourage your kids to grab a snack from the fridge when they grab one from the pantry. This will help provide a good balance of whole foods with slightly processed foods and add color and nutrients into their diet.