The holidays are such an exciting time for kids. The music, the lights, the smells, the decorations, the presents, the parties — the very air itself is thick with a heart-pounding anticipation of the magic each day will bring. And that daily magic is accompanied, of course, by what’s known as the height of childhood joy. The glimmer in every kid’s eye. SUGAR!
Sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, hot chocolate with marshmallows, candy canes, gingerbread men and houses, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, fruit cakes, chocolate-filled countdown calendars – the list of holiday sweets and treats goes on and on.
As a mom, I love these holiday indulgences. What I don’t love are the accompanying sugar highs that turn my three, already-energetic boys into cackling, mischievous elves. Nor do I love when said little elves crash from their highs and morph into cranky, grouchy creatures that would make the Grinch look like jolly old Saint Nick. That kind of emotional roller coaster isn’t my idea of holiday magic.
So this year I’m going to try something different. I’m still going to let the kids have treats (I’m no Ebenezer Scrooge!). I’m just going to make the treats a little healthier, but not too fussy or crafty (or else I’ll still end up losing my mind at the end of the day). I know all of this sounds like a tall order, but I think you’ll be surprised by these super simple, holiday-themed snacks I’ll be making this season.
Stick It to the Grinch
Since I mentioned the Grinch, let’s start with this easy idea for Grinch kebabs. All you need are bananas (sliced), strawberries (with stems cut off), green grapes, mini white marshmallows and toothpicks. Your kids still get a little nip of refined sugar from the marshmallow while taking in some vitamins from the fruit. Everybody wins!
Oh Veggie Tree, Oh Veggie Tree
Try making a veggie Christmas tree from three ingredients: baby carrots, cucumber slices and grape tomatoes. If your kids are dippers (mine are opposed to dipping, and I’m still not sure how we’re related), set out some ranch, French onion or ham dip and start snackin’ around the Christmas tree.
Walkin’ in a Cheesy Wonderland
I love, love, LOVE cheese, and two out of my three boys do too. (I don’t know what happened to the third child. Maybe he had too much cheese in the womb?) String cheese snowmen and Santa “bellies” are easy, cheesy snacks perfect for school lunches.
Partridge in a Baked Pear Tree
Baked pears are a sweet treat that double as a serving of fruit! To get the pears to sit straight without wobbling all over the place, cut a sliver off the back of them to make a flat surface. When they’re finished baking, they’re like little, individual pear pies. You can even serve them to your kids with a dollop of vanilla ice cream if you’re feeling really generous, and the kids are being very nice.
Another fun and fruity idea is Rudolph applesauce. This is another great lunchbox surprise. What you’ll need: applesauce cups (preferably cinnamon-flavored for the brown coloring), pipe cleaners (for antlers), googly-eye stickers, little red jingle bells (for the nose) and a hot glue gun. These will definitely be the talk of the lunch table!
Cup O’ Cheer
Presentation is everything, and just serving your healthy snacks in a festive way can entice your kids to scarf them down. Which brings me to snowmen popcorn cups, though popcorn’s not your only option. You can use just about any white food you can think of – Greek yogurt, white cheddar crackers, cauliflower, peeled almonds, cereal, and even mashed potatoes!
Crack a Smile
What kid doesn’t love crackers? Even the pickiest of my three boys will eat a whole sleeve by himself. I love these Santa crackers, with some modifications. Instead of sun-dried tomatoes, I use round crackers, raisins, slices of white cheese (I use American) and pepperoni.
Cookie Cutter Christmas
If you’re like me, you have a stash of cookie cutters in holiday shapes. If not, they’re so cheap to buy, and you can use them to turn any sandwich into a festive holiday snack. Peanut butter and jelly Christmas trees, anyone?
Candy Canes and Silver Lanes Aglow
I saved one of the easiest for last – a healthy “candy” cane made out of an apple! Just cut the apple into slices, then cut each slice into rectangles. Arrange the pieces, skin side up, in the shape of a candy cane on a white plate. That’s it! You can also alternate the apples with bananas for a swirled effect, or you can use another red fruit like watermelon, my kids’ favorite!
Your kids don’t have to suffer the scary, sugary highs and lows that can turn Christmas into something more like Halloween. There’s no way you can avoid sugar entirely during the holiday season, but with these ideas, you can buy yourself a little break here and there. Happy holidays to all, and to all a good bite!