We are all familiar with challenges of post-school hunger and the frequent requests for snacks & treats at the school gates. It can however become tricky to provide little ones with something both nutritious and delicious, as well as ensuring a variety rather than repeating the same snacks day after day.
Here at Cooking them Healthy HQ, we have compiled our top tips for being prepared and well armed with healthy goodies after school. It is often tempting and time saving to opt for shop bought snacks but processed muffins, snack bars and biscuits can be packed full of sugar (even if they appear healthy). Refined sugar can lead to an energy high followed by an unwelcome slump, particularly at the end of a long day. We favour more well balanced snacks to allow them to concentrate on their homework and maintain their energy levels for after school activities. Where possible we focus on finding alternatives to refined sugar, and using ingredients to nourish your child.
Our chosen recipes are quick to make, easily transportable and most importantly of all, taste delicious. Also, don’t always assume snacks must be of the sweet variety – children often enjoy more savoury treats too.
1. BEFRIEND YOUR FREEZER
It can be tricky to find the time to bake fresh snacks every day and if you do manage to bake, inevitably it will be offered repeatedly in order to ensure it is eaten fresh. This is where you need to become best friends with your freezer – the ultimate time saver. There are many great recipes that can be made ahead, stored in freezer bags and frozen, then simply defrosted the night before or grabbed as you are leaving for the school run.
We suggest stocking up you freezer with a few of the following recipe suggestions and you will always have something healthy and delicious to hand.
Oats are a lovely source of soluble fibre for a healthy digestive system, as well as B vitamins for that all important energy boost. The apricots add a lovely sweet & chewy texture as well as added fibre, and the seeds provide a mineral boost.
- 80ml honey
- 200g rolled oats
- 100g butter or coconut oil
- 80g dates
- 60 ml water
- a pinch of salt
- 80g dried apricots chopped
- 20g pumpkin seeds
- 10g sesame seeds
- Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C and line a baking tray (8inches by 6 inches) with silicon or non stick greaseproof paper.
- Place the dates with the water into a bowl and either microwave for 1 minute, or alternatively soak the dates in boiled water for several minutes, until softened. Blitz with a stick blender, or in a food processor, until a puree.
- Melt the honey, butter/coconut oil together and add in the date puree.
- Add in the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.
- Spread the mixture onto the lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Slice when cooled.
These muffins are free from refined sugar and are instead sweetened by mineral rich honey, maple syrup and natural banana sweetness. Spelt, an ancient cousin of wheat, has a lower gluten content and as a result is more easily digested than other white flours. You can of course use gluten free flour if required.
Make 10-12 muffins
- 190g white spelt flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 65ml honey
- 50ml maple syrup
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 90ml buttermilk or natural yoghurt
- 2 ripe bananas – mashed
- 50g butter melted
- 1 banana, sliced, to garnish
- Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
- In a bowl, combine the honey, maple syrup, eggs, yoghurt, mashed bananas and melted butter and stir until well combined. Sieve in the flour and add the baking powder, gently folding everything together. Try to do this quickly and lightly to retain air in the mixture.
- If making muffins – fill your muffin cases 2/3 full and place into the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until firm to the touch and if a skewer is inserted it comes out clean.
- Banana Bread: Alternatively you can make this into a Banana Bread Loaf. If so, pour the mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin (approx 21cm by 8cm) and bake in the centre of the oven for up to 1 hour / 1 hour 10 minutes. Again, test it is done by inserting a skewer and check it comes our clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack before slicing.
- For both muffins and the loaf, garnish with sliced banana pieces before cooking.
- Both freeze brilliantly. A good trick with the Banana Bread is to slice it before freezing so you can just take what you need, rather than have to de-frost the entire loaf.
Or try these delicious Rice Crispy Squares.
Coconut Apricot Balls – new
These yummy gluten free snack balls are sure to be a hit. They are packed with protein from the nuts, combined with chewy sweetness & fibre from the apricots and warm spice from the cinnamon.
Makes approx 16 balls
- 85ml honey 85
- 30g butter 30
- 30g coconut oil 30
- 50g ground almonds 50
- 30g pecans – finely chopped
- 30g walnuts – finely chopped
- 50g desicated coconut
- 50g oats
- 30g dried apricots chopped
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Melt the butter and coconut oil in a saucepan with the honey, and then add in all the other ingredients.
- Taking handfuls of the mix in one hand, make firm bite sized balls and place on to a plate and chill to firm up in the fridge.
- Alternatively you can actually bake them to make delicious coconut granola biscuits – simply roll into balls and flatten slightly to form a biscuit shape. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees and bake for 15 mins – until golden and crunchy. Leave to cool and help set their shape before eating.
- Either way you like them – raw or cooked they are a wonderful, grab-able snack full of goodness.
2. EXPERIMENT WITH VEGGIES
Kids can never have enough fresh vegetables, providing valuable vitamins and minerals to help support overall health. Interesting dips are a great way of encouraging kids to eat vegetables. It is so easy to make a nutritious dip and most tend to last a good few days in the fridge which in most households is long enough. We love to store ours in a jam jar with crudites. Carrot and cucumber are the obvious choice for the crudites, but also try using different vegetables (cauliflower, celery, red pepper, broccoli) as having a variety really adds nutritional value. Aim for a rainbow of colour.
This vibrant dip makes a refreshing alternative to the old faithfuls we are most familiar with. The peas provide plenty of immune boosting Vitamin C, and we love garlic for its natural antibacterial properties.
- 30g cooked frozen peas
- 80 ml natural yoghurt
- 1 small garlic clove
- 80g cream cheese
Place all the ingredients into a bowl and blitz with a stick blender or in a food processor until it reaches a smooth Greek yoghurt consistency with a lovely light green colour. This will keep well covered in a fridge for up to 5 days.
3. PACK A PROTEIN PUNCH
Protein is of course vital for growth and repair in rapidly growing bodies. Focus on quality protein sources such as chicken, eggs, cheese and nuts & seeds. Combining sweeter foods, such as fruit, with protein helps to slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream providing more sustained energy and also helps to keep little ones feeling fuller for longer.
Our green chicken wraps are a great idea.
– Chopped apple or grapes with cubes of cheddar cheese
– Peanut butter or other nut butter (cashew, almond etc) spread onto apples slices. Nuts provide a welcome protein hit, as well as containing nutritious minerals and healthy fats.
– Hard Boiled eggs. Eggs are the ultimate fast food, packed full of protein, B vitamins, brain boosting choline & skin healthy biotin. They are also brilliantly easy to transport, and taste delicious either hot or cold so are perfectly versatile.
By Georgie, Cooking Them Healthy