Monday, January 9, 2012

Wholesome (Kid-Friendly!) Snacks: Guest Post!

I am so excited to introduce Elevate Wellness' first guest blogger to all of you!  Susan at Real Kids Eat Spinach is by and far one of my favorite food bloggers!  She provides wonderful, wholesome recipes and menus that you can realistically implement into your repertoire. 

Below, she shares a little bit about her background, along with some delicious kid-friendly (and allergy-friendly) snack ideas.  I hear over and over again from all of you who have young children that snack time is the most challenging time of day....  I could not agree more!  In this post, Susan provides many suggestions to inspire you to stay on track with a healthy diet for you and your family during snack time! 

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to visit and share on Christina's blog! I am a single mother somewhat obsessed with nutrition who decided to extend that passion beyond my own kitchen (I'm sure to both of my kids' relief!)

While receiving my holistic health coach certification, I started a blog for my burgeoning business: Real Kids Eat Spinach. I am fortunate that neither of my children has of yet shown any food sensitivities or allergies. I usually cook, though, as if they do!

I personally follow a Paleo lifestyle, avoiding gluten, grains, soy and most dairy. On my site I always try to be mindful of the wide range of personalities, diets and needs out there. All of my recipes are labeled appropriately and I always try to offer substitutions and ideas for those who need to avoid nuts, eggs, and other allergens.

My main goal is to get parents and their kids eating real food. Natural sweeteners. No refined flours. Healthy fats. This can obviously be a challenge, especially when everyone is constantly on the go. I appreciate the value of convenient snack items; on my Facebook page I often suggest deals on healthier packaged items such as natural applesauce pouches and organic dried fruit.

You can't beat homemade snacks, though, for many reasons. They allow to know and control exactly what's going into the little mouths you're feeding. It can be cost effective to prepare healthy goodies, and a fun way to get your kids involved and excited about food.

It's great to maximize on the times kids seem to have an opinion or interest about making something. Having a helper makes the prep go by more quickly, and gets them very motivated to snack on their own creations! If you have a reluctant or disinterested crew, promise them samples for their hard work. I find chocolate chips and chopped apple are very good forms of payment.

If only my two were better at clean-up...

Homemade hummus is fantastic, as it can double as both an after school snack AND lunchbox standby. This version couldn't be easier or cheaper, as it omits the tahini and comes together quickly.

After once scorching an unwatched pot, I now always make my homemade applesauce in the crock pot. It's low maintenance and a great way to fill your kitchen with the best of comforting smells.

While perhaps not always portable, you can't beat a smoothie for quick, easy and customizable. I make green smoothies often, and *love* to use avocado to both thicken and boost the nutritional profile of my kids' frozen treats. Frozen banana chunks also do a great job of adding nice texture.

If you're a fan of helpful kitchen gadgets, a dehydrator and mandolin can both be useful for snack-making. The mandolin can cut perfect, thin slices of fruits and vegetables. Once dehydrated, you have your own naturally sweet chips!

I'm a baker at heart, though, so often make big batches of healthier muffins and bars. I have been known to put just about anything individually wrapped in the freezer, a good way to always have homemade options on hand.

A few of our recent favorites:
Vegan Zucchini Gingerbread Muffins (can also be made gluten-free and nut-free)
Almond Butter Krispie Squares (use sunflower seed butter to make them nut-free)
Flourless Pumpkin Brownies

Since baking is my passion I wanted to share an easy recipe that I've been tweaking, which offers a variety of customizations for your family's needs and personalities. They're a portable riff on granola, but without the grains and tons of sugar.

The granola balls shown are vegan but do contain nuts. I used maple syrup as my sweetener and an almond trifecta (flour, butter and raw almond pieces). As I've noted below, though, it is quite easy to make this recipe nut-free. I also made them more of a treat by using shredded coconut and unsweetened carob chips. These could be replaced with dried fruit or other nuts/seeds. In fact, if oats are not an issue for you they would obviously work in a granola-based recipe!

Granola Balls

½ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup flour of choice (brown rice, almond, spelt, whole wheat)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. sea salt
1 cup raw nuts of choice, chopped (sub more seeds or oats to make nut-free)
1/2 cup total of dried nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, carob or chocolate chips
¼ cup plus 1-2 tbs. liquid sweetener of choice (maple syrup, raw honey, raw agave)
2 tbs. nut or sunflower seed butter
splash of non-dairy milk or water (use enough to help the dough come together)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat liner.

In a food processor combine seeds, flour, cinnamon and salt. Pulse until the mixture comes together (will still be chunky).

Stir in whatever nuts, chips, etc you are using. To this mixture add the liquid ingredients. Using your greased hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

Shape dough into tight balls about an inch across. Arrange on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

The balls will be soft but will set up once cooled. My girl likes them best warm, while her brother likes to wait for the crunch!

These can be stored in an air-tight container and also freeze well.

Thanks for reading and here's to happy, healthy snacking!

Posted at:
Traditional Food Tuesdays

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