Snack stashing is something every parent learns how to do, because the alternative is total snacktastrophy. It goes something like this: 3 p.m. rolls around. The kids just got home from school. You have to drive them to soccer practice soon, but stomachs are growling. You fling open the fridge to see what you can find to silence the grumbling coming from their bellies and their mouths. “Carrot sticks and ranch dressing again, Mom?! I don’t even like carrots.” No one takes a bite and once again, you’re forced to let them eat cookies.
You can’t stop your kids from constantly changing their minds about what they like and don’t like, but with a good snack stash, you can at least ensure that there’s always something somewhat healthy to give them when they won’t take the first (or second … or third) thing you offer them.
Snack Reserves to the Rescue!
You don’t have to blow your budget to put together a solid snack stash. When you’re shopping for snacks, pick things that you can combine lots of different ways to make different snacks. Here are seven things I always keeps stashed:
Peanut Butter: Always have a jar of peanut butter on hand to spread on celery, apples crackers or pretzels. For something the kids can’t refuse, melt 1 tablespoon peanut butter and whisk it with 1/2 cup strawberry yogurt to make a dip for sliced fruit.
Lunchmeat: Lunchmeat isn’t just for lunches! Try rolling up hummus and a cucumber spear inside slices of turkey or ham for a crunchy protein-packed snack. You can also use lunchmeat to make pinwheels or ham and cheese pockets.
Fresh Fruit: I like to keep lots of fresh fruit stocked. If nothing else, we always have some bananas. They’re great on their own or spread with peanut butter (with a few chocolate chips on top to sweeten the deal). Don’t toss overripe bananas, either! Peel and freeze them so you always have an effortless, creamy smoothie base on hand.
Seasonal Treats: Keep things fresh by buying what’s in season and serving it as snacks, like tomatoes in the summer and apples in the fall.
New Snacks: When you see a new snack on the shelf, try it out! Or ask the kids to pick out one (one!) new snack at the grocery store. My daughter once wanted to buy olives with jalapeños. I didn’t think I’d like them, but we bought them anyway. It turned out my tastes had actually changed, and my daughter loved them too!
Veggies: Put veggies out first when your kids say they’re hungry. Edamame, fresh sugar snap peas or blanched string beans with garlic and soy sauce are great snack foods, and they take just minutes to make. Keep in mind that new variations on the same old veggies can eliminate boredom.
Cookies: Yep, cookies. Super cookies so good, the kids won’t mind that you used applesauce instead of oil or snuck in some oat floor.
Still stumped? Here are 50 more healthy snack ideas for kids. And for those extra demanding days (hello, soccer tournaments), here are power foods to keep your kids fueled for the field. Happy snacking!