Tricks for Fall Treats: Making Fun Snacks Nutritious
As caregivers, parents are often torn between wanting to reward kids with a little treat, and knowing they should insist on healthy snacks for their children’s best health. While we usually manage to make balanced choices for main meals, snack time is more fraught with frightfully delicious—and nutritionally disastrous—choices. Here are five ideas to keep in mind when planning these mini-meals to help power students through their day.
Sugarcoating – The Caramel Apple
We need look no further than the classic seasonal treat—the caramel apple—to see how something healthy can quickly become smile-worthy. For an everyday version of this carnival staple, make a quick homemade caramel dipping sauce by simmering together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and a pinch of sea salt for 5 minutes, whisking, until thickened. Off the heat, add in a teaspoon of vanilla. Pour the caramel sauce into a dish for dipping, or drizzle over apple slices. Leftovers will keep, refrigerated, for several days.
Candy Buzz – Honeybee Treats
Somewhere between an energy ball and a candy bite, these adorable honeybee treats are edible, no-bake art pieces that kids can sculpt and decorate all by themselves. Made from nut butter, whole-grain rolled oats, and the real bees’ contribution of honey, this candy is low in refined sugars. Use any nut butter you like for a protein-dense snack. Garnished with sliced almonds and dark chocolate stripes, these are much healthier, not to mention cuter, than your average candy bar. Kids will agree—these treats really are the bee’s knees! Share this snack around town, and you’re sure to create a buzz.
Golden Ratio – Homemade Trail Mix
Here’s a practical application of a math lesson: have your kids choose ingredients for a homemade trail mix, setting limits on the ratio of healthy snack items to treats. For instance, set up a seasonal snack base of one cup of whole-grain cheese crackers, 1/2 cup whole cashews or peanuts and 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, which is a ratio of 4:2:1. For extra credit, align your proportions as much as possible to the My Plate healthy eating guidelines. Determine a treat-worthy amount of candy corn or chocolate pieces to complete the mix. And to prevent anyone from picking out all the sweets from a big batch, have everyone make up their own small batch blend. That’s some great portion—and proportion—control!
Pop Culture – Healthy Popcorn
If it’s savory stuff you crave, trade in the chips for some whole-grain popcorn. Try air-popping your own, or choose health-conscious varieties that are lower in fat and sodium. You can create an array of toppings and seasonings that range from olive oil and rosemary to curry spice. Of course, you can also go for some sweet and salty versions, which make this snack a little more treat-worthy. For inspiration, pop on over to The Popcorn Board’s extensive recipe collection!
The Art of the Splurge – Banana Split
Sometimes, you just have to live a little and let loose the dietary restrictions. It’s okay to occasionally tally your balanced eating sheet at the end of the day, rather than at every meal. And it can actually be a very healthy lesson to teach kids the right and wrong ways to splurge. It’s a much more uplifting experience, for instance, to share an everything-on-it banana split—two spoons, please!—in celebration of the end of a quarter, or a good grade on a difficult test, than eating a whole pint of ice cream out of the container due to negative emotions of boredom or stress. Wellness encompasses more than always choosing the salad and never ordering dessert. If you model a healthy attitude toward food and exercise, make healthy choices most of the time, and fully enjoy your occasional splurges, you’ll find balance in more than just your calorie intake. And your kids will learn to balance their nutritional needs and wants, too.
All photos courtesy of Patrick Stigeler, Artisanal Imaging, LLC, all rights reserved.
Angela Stigeler is a writer for K12. She's also the author of the long-standing recipe column Thyme Out, which appears weekly in The Caledonia Argus, her hometown newspaper. With over a decade of professional writing experience covering food, education, and local news, she brings a wealth of experience to Learning Liftoff. When she's not in the kitchen, at her computer, or helping her husband with food photography, she can be found shuffling her two talented sons between school, Scouting adventures, soccer, and symphony rehearsals.