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8 Yummy & Healthy Snacks for Toddlers

You can just hear the judgy comments in your head. That snack has too much sugar, this one too much salt. And the carbs—yikes! If you’re looking for healthier things to give your kids when they get peckish, here are some ideas:

ANTS ON A LOG: Rediscover an old classic! Celery sticks and apple slices both go great with peanut butter. Let your child put the raisin “ants” on the logs herself.

CHEESE: For a quick calcium and protein fix, you could do worse than string cheese made of 100% part-skim mozzarella. Cubes of cheddar, Colby jack, swiss, edam or monterey jack will also do the trick—the more mild cheeses will be more likely to appeal to the young ‘uns. And just be sure it’s real cheese, and not processed “cheese food.” You will also want to avoid the same soft unpasteurized cheeses you skipped while you were pregnant.

CHIPS: We’re talking kale, not potato. Many kids may balk, but it’s worth a shot, considering how amazingly healthy this leafy green vegetable is (kale scores a perfect 1000 on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index according to Whole Foods’ website. You can read this Oh She Glows blog post for advice. And here’s a simple recipe that incorporates the main tips:

Ingredients: 1 bunch kale (about 1lb.), 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grab kale leaves by the stem with one hand and pull off the leaves with the other. (Discard stems or save them for your next smoothie or batch of soup.) Tear leaves into large pieces, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels. You can also use a salad spinner. (Whatever you do, make sure the kale is completely dry before baking.) Massage the extra virgin olive oil into the leaves with your fingers, then sprinkle with salt. (You might try adding a little onion powder or garlic powder if you think it will help entice the kids.) Put individual leaves on ungreased baking sheets in a single layer, nicely spaced out. Bake for 10 minutes; rotate the pans, then bake for another 15 minutes or less (depending on your oven). Remove pans from the oven and let sit for three minutes before serving.

COOKIES: Yep you read that right. Cookies can be healthy—well, relatively—with the right recipe. Food blogger Angela Liddon’s Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies packs in some extra fiber thanks to the oat flour and ground flaxseed.

DRIED FRUIT: Next time you head out to the playground, why not take a break from the same-old raisins and pack some chopped dried pineapple and apricots instead? Dried fruit is so convenient, but be wary of products with added sugar. The fructose in fruit makes its naturally sweet, and you’ll be giving your kids extra vitamins and minerals to boot. Trader Joe’s freeze-dried strawberries provide a delicious blast of Vitamin C and they just melt in your mouth.

HUMMUS AND PRETZELS: This recipe by Alton Brown involves slow-cooking some chickpeas for several hours, but you’ll be glad you took the time to make your own. Look for whole-grain pretzels for dipping, or serve raw carrots, but make sure you split those round thumb-sized babies down the middle first, especially for littler kids. Better yet, buy organic whole carrots and cut them into squared off sticks the size of McDonald’s French fries.

TRAIL MIX: Cooking Light’s Crunch-Crunch-Crunch mix  promises to satisfy kids’ cravings for salt and sugar without overdoing it, while sneaking a little extra fiber into their day. Mix 1/2 cup dried cherries, 2 cups whole-grain Rice Chex, 1/2 cup roasted unsalted pistachios and 3 cups Kashi Go Lean Crunch Cereal. As with any mix you make, sprinkling a little pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, or hemp seeds will boost the nutrition in every bowl.

YOGURT SMOOTHIE: This simple smoothie recipe calls for one part unsweetened fruit juice (check label to be sure nothing has been added) and plain, vanilla or smooth-blended fruit yogurt (don’t use yogurt with chunks or fruit on the bottom); you just blend and serve. Add half a frozen banana, and you get a gold star. If your child has a real sweet tooth, and is at least a year old, you can also add some honey.

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