Every Bite Matters: Quick and Efficient Snack Ideas for Kids

Summer is here, which seems unanimously to come with kids’ endless requests for a snack.

Somewhere in the flexibility of being home more and the need for boredom-busters that often have kids ending up in and around the kitchen though, kids constant questioning “can I have a snack” is one that parents can start answering with a more proactive approach.

Instead of feeling pressured to either provide a snack upon being asked or to tame the hangry temperament until the next meal, this post will help parents to make the most out of each bite offered with quick and efficient fuel ideas.

 

Every Bite Matters: Quick and Efficient Snack Ideas for Kids

As with when I have shared about how to build a healthy snack, one thing that continues to be an area of emphasis is to offer a balance of nutrients.

One of the reasons kids often ask for endless snacks is because they aren’t being satiated enough with a given snack. While starchy foods more traditionally seen as “snack foods for kids” are often enjoyed in large amounts by little ones, they lack the nutrition to effectively fuel a child for their high energy and spurts of activity in between meals. Additionally, for children who may need snack options that pack in more nutrition to help promote growth as well, snacks become an especially opportune time for each bite to be optimized. Rather than filling up the precious real estate of a child’s stomach with “filler foods,” parents can also use the following principles as criteria for what to include in their child’s snack offering.

That’s one of the reasons why I always encourage parents to “boost each bite.” What I mean by that is to find small, subtle changes that add major nutrition to your child’s otherwise normal snack. Although you can always add a scoop of ice cream to their smoothie/shake or offer processed, high-fat food for merely more calories, it probably goes without saying that these aren’t my ideal “boosts.” Instead, I love encouraging parents to try out other products on the market that help to deliver more nutrition with each bite, sip, or slurp. As you will see in the examples below, I like to suggest the idea of using a kid-friendly protein powder, like Healthy Height. I know that nutritionally it adds the boost children need in their diets. Equally important, I trust this product is backed by pediatricians who saw the need for a healthier shake supplement and have since created this as a safe, more-natural alternative for families (with less sugar than its competitors).

This way, whether you have a child who seems like they can never stay satisfied (and always wants snacks) or a child who seems like they can never eat enough to gain weight and grow properly (and often “eats like a bird”), you as the parent can confidently approach snack time knowing you have wholesome, nutrient-dense options for optimizing each bite. The following balance of nutrients in the snack options you offer will create a framework for snack time success:

Aim to Include a Combination of Protein, Fat, and/or Fiber for Extra Fuel

While having snacks that include any one of these components can be sufficient for some or when a small snack is merited, including options that include protein, fat, and/or fiber will help to both fill and fuel your child for longer.

 
 

Protein

As the most asked about macronutrient by parents, protein is a hot topic of concern. Many parents are concerned their children don’t eat enough protein (click here to see how much young kids need!), especially in the form of proteins often offered at meals like meat, poultry, seafood, beans, or eggs. That’s why finding creative ways to get protein in at snacks can help to both lessen the concern on how much children eat at mealtimes while also providing them with valuable fuel that helps them to feel full longer.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add protein for extra fuel:

  • Offer Healthy Height* instead of a standard juice box for a protein-rich option
  • Add hummus to fresh veggies sticks and/or crackers
  • Add nuts or seeds (as appropriate for child’s age) to homemade trail mix with dry cereal and dried fruit
  • Hard boil eggs for a quick addition to any snack plate
  • Make energy bites with added nuts and seeds instead of standard grain-based granola bars

 

Fat

With more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or protein, fat offers a nutrient-dense way to make a snack more satisfying. That means, bite for bite, your child eats the most calories from fat (compared to from carbohydrates or protein). Fat also helps us to feel full longer, so simple swaps of low-fat options for higher-fat ones or additions of healthy fat options can help curb kid’s hunger even if they only eat a few bites.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add fat for extra fuel:

  • Mix Healthy Height* with whole milk instead of water
  • Add nut butter spreads, smashed avocado, or melted cheese to toast (instead of using jam or other alternatives)
  • Pair fruit or crackers with nut butter as a dip
  • Offer whole milk yogurt in place of lower fat “kids yogurts”
  • Include hemp, chia, or ground flax seeds with items (in muffins, mixed in yogurt or applesauce, sprinkled on top of toast)

 

Fiber

This is a great reason why adding fruits or vegetables to a snack helps to not only round out what is offered nutritionally, but also provide an element that promotes added fullness. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always an easy idea to add to a snack, as is dried fruit if parents want an option that holds up better in the heat and provides more compact calories (energy!) than fresh alternatives.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add fat for extra fuel:

  • Make a fiber-rich green smoothie with frozen fruit, a few handfuls of greens, and a scoop of Healthy Height*
  • Offer a fresh fruit salad instead of fruit snacks
  • Opt for whole grains in snack foods, cereals, and crackers
  • Cut up fresh veggie sticks and offer alongside “veggie straws” or other low-fiber snack foods
  • Use whole grain flours like whole wheat or oat flour (instead of white flour) when making muffins or other baked goods that work for easy, on the go snack options

 

In Summary

Any parent knows there is a need for both quick AND efficient snacks when fueling small stomachs. So instead of reaching for snacks with empty calories on the regular, consider the above advice and ideas. Use these to help brainstorm ways that you could help your child to make the most out of every bite by adding in more protein, fat, and/or fiber at snack time. Also, if your child’s pediatrician has suggested you try Pediasure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, or any other oral supplement to try and promote more nutrient-rich options in the diet, I encourage you to check out Healthy Height*

*When checking out HealthyHeight.com, use code VeggieVirtue15 for a 15% off discount on your order.

Muffin Club for Moms

Random fact for the day about me: I am not spontaneous. So consider this highly out of character that I am changing up my content calendar so last minute to include this very important announcement:

I am hosting an impromptu Muffin Club for Moms and I have a feeling at least a few of you may want in [click here to join - it's free!].

Since a book club still seems like a distant dream, one thing I can commit to in the real day to day right now is baking once a week, every Monday, to both keep myself accountable and healthy snacks on hand in our home. As I gear up for postpartum, this is part of the meal prep I am also committing myself too in hopes for a slightly smoother transition come my third child's arrival in August.

The good news is that whether you are expecting a little one soon (like me), early on in your pregnancy and wanting to find some tried-and-true muffins for future postpartum prep, or are a fellow busy mama who just wants to make life a liiiiiittle more streamlined, efficient, and low-stress, this Muffin Club is for you.

You likely saw me talk about this in my stories last week (if you follow me on Instagram). Considering how enthusiastic the response was when I threw out this idea, I opted to postpone the content I had planned to share on today's blog post to instead breakdown a bit more info on this upcoming Muffin Club for Moms and how you can get in on it (if you'd like to!).

 
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Here is What You Can Expect:

Each week, I will:

  1. Search, find, and organize muffin recipes that I personally approve of as a dietitian-mom. I won't necessarily have personally tried each of these in advance, but I will select from those that in good faith (and with due diligence to research reviews on) are going to taste awesome and offer worthwhile nutrition for you and your family.

  2. Send out ONE email with the recipe for the upcoming week. I will send this on Saturday mornings, only to those who have joined the Muffin Club. Join here >>

  3. Share on my Instagram a picture and/or story about the muffins we are making for the week using the hashtag #muffinclubformoms.

Each week, I ask that you will:

  1. Check the recipe for the upcoming week so you can make sure you have the ingredients on hand. You can find this recipe on the email I send out each Saturday morning titled, "New Recipe for Muffin Club: ________." To join this email list and get this recipe in advance to your inbox, make sure to sign up here.
  2. Whenever you decide to make the muffins (be it on Monday or not), please share a picture or a video on your social media. When you do, I would really appreciate it if you would tag me (@veggiesandvirtue) and include #muffinclubformoms. This will help me to gauge if the time to organize ideas and email out this info to everyone is worth the effort each week (since I am offering it for free). Better yet, the engagement will make a more fun "community" feel for our super official Muffin Club for Moms :)
  3. Enjoy the muffins! Email me in reply to my weekly recipe emails or send me a PM on Instagram with questions, feedback, etc. so I can hear how each week's muffins go over in your home!

FAQs for Muffin Club

I have already received several questions about making muffins in advance and the logistics of doing so to freeze and enjoy again later. To address some of these questions, I have provided the questions and my answers below.

What kind of muffins will be included?

As discussed in the initial Instagram post for this idea, the plan is for these are to be healthy, homemade muffins. Set your expectations for them to taste delicious AND nutritious as a nutrient-dense breakfast, snack, or anytime option! If you are wanting a muffin that is delicious but not so nutritious, I am probably not your gal nor is this going to bring you the type of snack you have in mind. The pre-made options you will find at most coffee shops and grocery stores are better suited for those decadent versus nutrient-dense options.

What type of ingredients will these muffins be made from?

Since I personally can't consume gluten, I usually bake gluten-free to ensure I can eat whatever I make (even if my girls opt not to). When possible, I use oats/oat flour, almond flour, or coconut flour as the base, or a gluten-free all purpose flour (as a substitute for a whole wheat flour or when specified). You are welcome to make your muffins with whatever flour is called for or is your preference (i.e. whole wheat instead of a gluten-free flour). I am by no means endorsing a gluten-free diet is appropriate for everyone; this is simply how I cook for my family so the recipes chosen will naturally reflect that.

As for other ingredients and allergens, please be sure to review the recipe in advance if you have questions about substitutions or concerns about omitting allergens. I'd be happy to help provide guidance on this for those who need nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free alternatives, if asked.

Otherwise, I am not looking to make anything fancy here folks! Most every recipe will be selected with the common home kitchen and pantry in mind, as I value recipes that use our everyday staples vs require exotic (or especially expensive) ingredients.

What is the best way to store muffins?

For the muffins that I plan we will eat the week of, I usually store them in a glass Pyrex with a snapware lid (as seen on my Amazon shop - affiliate link). I don't want to tie these glass storage containers up long term however, so for freezing I use a gallon-sized freezer Ziplock and/or a metal disposable container with heavy duty foil top (I find the best size options and price for disposable metal pans at Dollar Tree).

What is the best way to freeze muffins?

Ideally, I recommend that after the muffins have cooled and come to room temperature, to transfer them on a cooling rack (or in the original muffin tin) to a freezer for 30+ minutes to flash freeze individually. Once quick-frozen, transfer muffins to a sealed, freezer-safe container (see question above). This will help them to not stick together but prevents you from having to waste the time or product to wrap each muffin individually.

What is the best way to keep muffins tasting fresh?

Especially during hot summer months, I recommend you keep your fresh batch of muffins in the fridge (once they have cooled). Most will mold at room temperature if left out for more than 1-2 days, so I suggest storing them in the fridge and then pulling them out in advance to bring them to room temp on their own before eating or by quickly warming them up in the microwave (~10 seconds).

What is the best way to thaw frozen muffins?

When you go to thaw your muffins from the freezer, simply transfer the container of them to the fridge. Allow them to thaw on their own, or take one and put it on a paper towel to microwave (~15-30 seconds depending on how frozen they are). You should be able to transfer the whole container to the fridge to enjoy, or you can remove one muffin at a time from your freezer stash and thaw in the microwave. For muffins with more moisture, you may want to consider putting a paper towel inside of the container/Ziplock to absorb it as the muffins thaw.

How long do the muffins last in the freezer for?

From my experience and the notes I have read on many muffins recipes, most muffins are fine to be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months (assuming they have been well-sealed). When you put each batch in, just be sure to label with the name and date and then rotate using First In, First Out method when it comes to eating those that have been frozen.


Past Recipes

Interested in the recipes I have already shared? You can still join Muffin Club and get eight week's of my favorite healthy muffin recipes here!


Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt Bark

Since Fall in Texas still means it's consistently over 70 and even 80 degrees, this has been a Fall favorite with my family. It mixes the flavors from the season with the nutrient-dense foods my growing girls need, making it a perfect snack or after dinner treat!

Be sure to check out my dietitian mom tip at the bottom of this recipe as well!

 
pumpkin froyo bark.jpg
 
 

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt Bark

Ingredients:

1 cup plain full-fat yogurt (I used Stonyfield)
1/4 cup plain pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons hemp hearts
1 Tablespoon Halloween sprinkles

Instructions:

  1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pour yogurt onto parchment paper. Using a rubber spatula, evenly spread out until about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
  3. Add pumpkin purée to yogurt. Gently mix in. Again spread out out mixture until even.
  4. With hand 12” or so above yogurt mixture, sprinkle hemp hearts evenly on the surface. Repeat with Halloween sprinkles.
  5. Put in the freezer for 1-2 hours or until firm. Remove pan from freezer, lift parchment paper, and gently break up frozen yogurt bark into large pieces. Serve immediately, storing extra pieces in air tight container with parchment paper in between layers. Enjoy! 

Note: These will thaw quickly, so best to return pieces to the freezer in between requests for seconds!


Dietitian Mom Tip

We rarely ever have foods containing food dyes in our home, sprinkles included. But for some certain seasonal items that I know will be short lived and likely live in the attic until next year, I do bend some of my standard "what I buy and why" standards. This not only helps me fit in other key foods like yogurt, pumpkin, and hemp seeds, but also makes a less exciting snack all the more fun amidst a holiday season that can be so all about the sugar. So just remember - YOU are the nutritional gatekeeper. The call is yours! But sometimes, I will give my dietitian blessing to loosen up a little bit and add a little fun for the sake of the big picture.

Halloween Boo Breakfast

Boo!

Did that scare you?

No? Well it's probably a good thing that neither of us is on edge then. Because one thing you don't need to worry about scaring me with is the amount of candy our kids will soon be seeing.

As a registered dietitian and mom of two, I am well aware that with the start of this holiday season and namely Halloween comes A LOT of candy. And although it might surprise you, I am actually okay (or at least at terms!) with it. That's because my main goal in raising healthy eaters is for them to establish a healthy relationship with all foods, including all of the sweets stuffed into their little plastic pumpkin pales.

In my ideal world, all families would hand out jack-o-lantern satsumas and mummy-wrapped boxes of raisins. But in the real world? That's just not happening, even in my home.

That's why I think the sticky subject of sweets this time of year needs to shift less on if/whether and how much candy our kids eat (remember, that's THEIR job!) and more towards what, when, and where we allow sugar to be offered (since that's OUR job!).

 

When my sweet friend Ashley over at The Littles and Me asked if I wanted to do a Halloween Boo Breakfast for our monthly collab, I couldn't resist. I can talk about sugar and managing "forbidden foods" all day, how much sugar is recommended, how we can help curb our kid's cravings for it, and the most common concerns I see with how parents handle sugar. But what I really want to highlight this year is how we can assume a healthy, balanced approach to the Division of Responsibility in feeding - even at Halloween.

 Halloween Boo Breakfast

It starts with determining what, when, and where our kids will be exposed to the sweet stuff.

By planning for fewer added sugars in the foods you offer your family everyday, you are opening up more margin in your kids diets for a few sweet treats when offered elsewhere. You are acknowledging that they will likely be eating more sugar than their tiny tummies need elsewhere and planning meals and snacks at home accordingly. You are making wise food choices that both fuel and fill your kiddos, so when candy is around, you know they aren't scarfing it down because you didn't do your part to feed them properly. Above all, you are embracing the joys of Halloween and helping your child learn how to healthfully and happily to do the same.

This all starts with Halloween Boo Breakfasts like this one!

With seasonal flavors, wholesome foods, and zero added sugars, make your tiny monsters this Boo Breakfast and you will both start the festivities feeling good.


Boo-Nana Smoothie

Ingredients:
1 small container pumpkin yogurt (I used Siggi's)
1 ripe banana
1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds
1 Tablespoon pumpkin puree
4 ounces unsweetened almond milk

 Healthy Boo-Nana Smoothie for Kids

Instructions:

  1. Add ingredients to blender.
  2. Turn on and blend until well mixed.
  3. Serve in a spooky glass and enjoy!
 

Note:
I found these cute glass cups with lids and straws at Target in the dollar section (score!). I just added googly eyes and an "O" mouth on it myself, or you can use the ones Target has already pre-printed fun Halloween images on. Ashley also shares in her Boo Breakfast decoration ideas how you can make an easy, disposable cup option on the spot, so check out how here


Spooky Spider Web Pumpkin Pancakes

You can use any pancake recipe you prefer for this recipe. Just make sure it is thin enough to be squeezed out of the container to create the spider web. I chose this festive, pumpkin recipe below minimally adapted from @lunchesandlittles.

Ingredients:
1 ¼ cup gluten free flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk or milk alternative
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree

 Spooky Spider Web Pumpkin Pancakes

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add all of the dry ingredients. Stir until mixed, then set aside.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, add milk, applesauce, melted coconut oil, and pumpkin puree. Stir until well combined.
  3. Add bowl of wet ingredients to large mixing bowl with dry ingredients. Stir until ingredients are mixed.
  4. Using a small plastic squeeze bottle, transfer pancake batter from large mixing bowl to squeeze bottle. If coconut oil has hardened at all in the mixing process, run it under hot water for a few minutes until it liquefies again.
  5. Preheat a large griddle or pan to medium heat. Use additional coconut oil to coat, as needed.
  6. To make spider webs, start by squeezing pancake batter in the shape of a large plus sign ("+"). Going diagonal over those lines, squeeze pancake batter into a large "X". Use squeeze bottle to then connect the end of the lines with small little inverted lines of pancake batter. Add a center circle between the center axis and the otter "webbing."
  7. As pancake begins to brown and batter starts to bubble, gently flip pancake using a large spatula.
  8. When pancakes are cooked, remove from griddle/pan and put on plate. Decorate with a plastic spider and serve!
    This recipe is AMAZING as is. Even for my syrup-loving littles, we found the stand alone spider web pancakes were totally satisfying without any added sweetener (mixed in or on top)! Encourage your kiddos to enjoy the spider web and smoothie without syrup to save some of that added sugar for all the other sweets being offered at other events.
 

Note:
I found our squeeze bottle at the dollar store. You can also use an old ketchup bottle thoroughly washed out, or get ones like these off of Amazon (affiliate link; item shown below). If the tip is too narrow to let the batter pass through, just cut a slight bit off until you are able to squeeze easily. Below are affiliate links to my pancake-making arsenal. As always (see my legal page here), using these links doesn't cost you anything extra. The small commission earned just helps Veggies & Virtue to provide more fun ideas like this one!

 Halloween Boo Breakfast Menu Idea

Make it a More Festive Affair!

Be sure to find the BOO-tiful breakfast set-up that Ashley over at the Littles and Me shared. You can see from the image below, these decorations and easy to use printables are perfect to go with the Boo-Nana Smoothie and Spooky Spider Web Pumpkin Pancakes from above. So hop on over to the Littles and Me to get these Halloween Boo Breakfast decoration ideas and free printables!

BooBreakfast_CoverImage.jpg
 

Wishing you and your little pumpkins a very happy and healthy Halloween!

Room on the Broom Snacktivity

I'm not sure why I just can't help but see a book and imagine a snactivity to go along with it.

Get it: snack + activity = snactivity. So clever, I know. But I am totally claiming this and running with it.

Because while I know many of you loved the "Read with Recipes" I did over the summer in collaboration with Days with Grey and The Mama Workshop, I am building off of that basis to bring you this month's book and snacktivity:

Room on the Broom

 
 

I had actually never heard of this book until Beth and Ludavia suggested it for this month's collaboration. I ordered it and quickly saw why it will become a new seasonal favorite in our family as well.

Since I am not the educational expert on this book, I will leave all of that to BethLudavia, as well as Alison and Tara. Be sure to read all the way to the end of this post for links to their activities for this book! For now, here is the "how to" for this month's snacktivity! The recipe is a kid-friendly, fun way to strength story time and snack time with simple yet healthy staples.

 Room on the Broom snacktivity
 

Room on the Broom Snacktivity

Serves 2

 Room on the Broom snacktivity

Ingredients
1 large carrot, peeled
2 cheese sticks, wrapper removed
6 chives, uncut
6 long pretzel sticks (optional)*

*For a whole-grain, nut-free pretzel option, we found some extra-long pretzel sticks that come in small snack packs at Sam's club. One snack pack would make about 20 broomsticks!

Room on the Broom Snacktivity 4.jpg

Instructions
1. Carrot "Broomsticks"
With your peeled carrot and a parent's help, remove the top stem section and pointed end. Cut in half lengthwise, so the carrot's center is lying flat on the cutting board. Cut lengthwise again 4-5 times until you have several long strips of carrot. With these, lie each carrot strip on its side so that you can remove the rounded outer side. This should make the section of carrot a large, long rectangle. With the carrot, then create your "broomstick" handles by cutting these larger carrot rectangles into shorter ones with a square diameter. Once you have six carrot "broomsticks," set aside.

2. Cheese "Brooms"
With you cheese sticks and a parent's help, cut the cheese stick in three equal parts. Using a sharp paring knife, cut an "X" on one end of the cheese piece. On the other end, use paring knife to cut a tic-tac-toe board half way up the length of the cheese piece. This will leave you with an "X" on one end (to later enter the broomstick in) and nine small sections of cheese on one end (to later "fan out" like a broom). Repeat on the remaining pieces of cheese until you have made six cheese "brooms." Set aside.

3. Assembling the "broomsticks"
Using either your carrot broomsticks and/or in combination with long, pretzel sticks, gently insert the "broomstick" into the "X" on each cheese piece.

4. Final touches
Using a long, uncut chive, lie it flat and place the complete broomstick (broom + stick) onto the chive so that the chive is about just barely below where the broomstick meets the broom. Gently tie is, then use the paring knife or kitchen sheers to gently cut off any excess. Repeat with eat broomstick.

5. Make the broomsticks ready to fly
Gently fan out the base of each cheese piece where the cheese was sliced into nine sections. Then share and enjoy your snacktivity while reading the story, "Room on the Broom!"


Creative learning activities to make this snacktivity even better!

For more activities from this month's Room on the Broom collaboration, please be sure to check out each of the awesome ideas below!

the mama workshop room on the broom.jpg

Ludavia over at The Mama Workshop came up with these darling little paper plate witch hats, paper bows, and craft stick wands to do a scavenger hunt. Find out how to make your own by seeing her activity HERE.

days with grey room on the broom.jpg

Beth over at Days with Grey always does an amazing job breaking down any story so kids can learn to retell it using everyday craft items you probably already have on hand! Check out her cute popsicle stick activity HERE.

Tara over at Little Pine Partners has the most creative ways of using nature to teach core concepts to kids. I love the two activities she came up with using clothespins and story stones for Room on the Broom! Find them HERE.

alison room on the broom.jpg

Allison over at Yoga Pants & Pearls gives us this great sequencing activity (plus printable!) to put together our own little broomsticks. She also includes how you can use the broomstick for a painting project too on her post HERE.

 

Thanks for joining us this month!

To be in the know each month when we do a Read with Recipe Snacktivity, be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you get them straight to your inbox!

Happy Fall, and remember -- there's always Room on the Broom (plus room for snacks!).

Peanut Free Play Dates (plus snack ideas!)

I admit, avoiding peanut-containing products is not something I think about personally on a day to day basis. I must eat gluten-free and was dairy- and soy-free while breastfeeding our oldest, but peanuts have thankfully never been a key food for concern with our family.

As we all get back into the swing of the school year though, peanut-free foods naturally get pushed to the forefront of all our minds (and rightfully so).

With an estimated 1 in 200 kids having a peanut-allergy (according to Kids with Food Allergies), we are seeing more and more peanut allergies in the average classroom. More so, each of us are meeting families whose lives are impacted by keeping their child with food allergies free from harm in a variety of environments. Although school is an obvious place for us all to start, there are other ways we can continue to extend our support to these families by establishing peanut-free environments and allergen-safe activities.

That’s why my friend Ashley, over at the Littles and Me, and I want to highlight how you can host an allergen-friendly play date with peanut-free snacks!

 
 Peanut-Free Snack Ideas for Play Dates
 

Any of us with young kids know that play dates are the social gatherings that spur young friendships and create community around our kids.
We want these for ALL kids, don’t we?

Whether you are a parent of a kid with food allergies or not, I know all of our answers are emphatically “yes!”

Play dates should be an undeniable rite of passage for our kids and one we as parents work hard to protect – even if that means going peanut-free.

That’s why this post is going to go outside of the classroom to consider how else we can support kids with food allergies. Imagine a fellow peanut-free parent’s peace of mind if their kid could enjoy a playdate “just like everyone else” – free from fear over an anaphylactic occurrence.

Let’s make that happen together, as families supporting families with food allergies.

In this post, we will highlight what are the best peanut-free foods to offer, how to take proper precautions to ensure a peanut-free environment, and how to talk to your kids about food allergies and their friends.

Although these suggestions can be added inspiration for peanut-free lunchbox ideas as well, here is what you need to know specifically about hosting a peanut-free play date.

A special thanks to my peanut-free mom friend, Beth over at Days with Grey, for her taking the time to review and give firsthand feedback on this post! She shares another valuable post on peanut-free parties here.

How to pick peanut-free foods to offer at play dates

Want to find your own peanut-free snack ideas for a play date? Follow these tips when shopping for safe, peanut-free snack foods. Children’s allergies can vary in severity but the following five steps can help ensure the proper steps are taken to eliminate peanut-containing and/or cross-contaminated products.

  1. Always check the ingredients list and product label for peanuts. Don't assume because a food doesn't naturally contain peanuts that it isn't cross-contaminated through manufacturing. Check for the statement “Contains: Peanuts” beneath the list of ingredients. This is required by the federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).
  2. Look for an advisory statement. This may include a statement that reads, “may contain peanut” or “made in a facility with peanut.” While these are voluntary, it is good to avoid any item that may contain traces of peanuts when planning your peanut-free playdate.
  3. Contact the manufacturer. As stated on SnackSafely.com, "due to flaws in US labeling rules, it is impossible to tell whether a product is safe from the label alone." For this reason, it is best to check the company’s website or call the company’s customer service to see if the food item is manufactured in a peanut-free facility any time you are in doubt. Sometimes, one item in a product line is safely “peanut-free” and another item from the same company is not; so when in doubt, reach out to the company to clarify.
  4. Use peanut-free resources. Still feeling unsure about safe peanut-free snack ideas? Consider downloading a free, peanut-free guide like this one for a list of peanut-free food options that is updated often.
  5. Stay up to date. A product’s peanut-free status can change frequently, so never assume an item that was peanut-free still is. Check labels, call the manufacturer, ask the child’s parent, or use a reference guide to keep up with which items are safe to offer.

Looking for tried and true peanut-free favorites to offer at play dates? Here are 12 of our favorite go-to's!

  1. Bitsy's Brain Food Smart Crackers and Cookies
  2. Stonyfield Whole Milk Squeezers (serve frozen for an extra fun treat!)
  3. Pirate’s Booty
  4. Skinny Pop
  5. Sargento cheese stick
  6. Late July Organic Multigrain Tortilla Chips
  7. Mary's Gone Crackers Original
  8. Partake cookies
  9. Made Good Granola Bars
  10. Any of the items from EnjoyLife
  11. Bananas (fruits with peels are preferred!)
  12. Oranges (fruits with peels are preferred!)
 
snack safely infographic.jpg
 

How to take proper precautions to ensure a peanut-free environment[

  1. Thoroughly clean all equipment. If preparing any foods at home, be sure to thoroughly wash and clean ALL equipment from cross-contamination, including items like knives, cutting boards, and counter tops. When in doubt, avoid using kitchen appliances that are harder to clean like toasters, blenders, or other items that may have been used previously with peanut-containing foods.
  2. Plan ahead. If you know you have a peanut-free play date on the calendar soon, try to avoid offering peanut-free items in the days preceding. This helps to lessen the chances of cross-contamination while giving you plenty of chances to clean counter tops, booster seats, kids tables and chairs prior to the play date.
  3. Communicate openly. Parents of children with food allergies tend to be among the most educated resources out there on establishing safe and peanut-free environments, so show your support by seeking out their input on anything you have questions about. Nothing reassures a parent (whose child is peanut-free) more about the upcoming play date than you showing you care and concern to keep everything as safe as possible.

 

How to talk to your kids about food allergies:

  1. First, educate yourself more on peanut allergies by learning more at Kids with Food Allergies.
  2. Practice how to talk with your kids about food allergies with sample ideas here.
  3. Show your child this episode of Daniel Tiger on food allergies.
  4. For older kids, consider this lesson plan from Arthur’s “Binky Goes Nuts: Understanding Peanut Allergies” for a fun and interactive way to engage your kids in allergy education.
  5. Talk with the family beforehand to let them share about their food allergy in a welcomed, warm environment.

Time to (safely) Snack & Play!

With "safe snacks" and manufacturing practices constantly changing, this is something that requires our ongoing attention to. By partnering with our children's friend's families and food companies, however, we can establish a safer environment for children with food allergies.

 
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For more ways to make this an extra-special allergen-friendly play date

 

Be sure to hop on over to Ashley's allergen-friendly play dough pack at theLittlesandme.com.

25 Easy Ways to Include Veggies in Your Little's Lunch

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Sneakz Organic. As always, all opinions and recommendations are my own. For more on my disclosure policy, please visit my legal page.


I know a lot of us parents struggle with what veggies to include in a lunch box without defaulting to baby carrots and dip each day. While that is a fine option, older kids may get burnt out of that offering and younger kids likely can't (safely) crunch their way through it.

That's why I have created this list.

With 25 ideas for how to include a variety of vegetables in each lunch box, you could literally offer a different option each school day of the month! I know this list will help to spur on some new ideas, get you out of a "what to offer" rut, and help your family shop for some fun new offerings this school year.

Be sure to grab my FREE shopping list at the end of this post with the brands I like for each of the products recommended, as well as all the recipes for the items listed.

 25 Easy Ways to Include Veggies in Your Little's Lunch

So without further ado, here is a collection of kid-friendly veggie-based food options that are perfect for packing in lunchboxes -- safe for even those who are still learning to crunch and munch through raw veggies!

 

10 Effortless Ideas that Require Minimal to No Prep:

Frozen Peas: Try tossing frozen veggies in and letting them thaw before lunch time.

Grated Carrot Straws: Raw carrots are a choking hazard in kids under four, so consider buying grated carrot straws for your kiddos to try instead.

Freeze-Dried Veggies: You can find these most easily online in single veggie varieties or medley packs.

Kale Chips: You can make your own or buy them pre-made to increase the shelf life a bit.

Cooked (or Jarred) Beets: You can roast your own or buy those that are pre-cooked and in vacuum-sealed pouches.

Baked Sweet Potato: Bake whenever the oven is already on for something else and then keep it in the fridge to have all ready to dice up and add to a lunchbox.

Zoodles: Spiralize your own veggies, or take the shortcut and buy premade ones! Serve raw or cook quickly then include al-dente in a lunch box

Peek-a-boo Sugar Snap Peas: Create a slice down the spine of sugar snap peas so that your little one can open them up and play peek-a-boo with all the peas inside! I promise this novelty trick works wonders.

Canned Corn: Buy the no-salt-added organic corn and you can literally drain and send it as is! No rinsing or cooking required.

Sneakz Organic Milk: If you are already in the habit of sending a juice or milk box instead of just water for a beverage, consider tossing in a box of Sneakz Organic. With a 1/2 serving of vegetables in each milk box, this is an easy, unexpected way to get carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, spinach, and beets in your kiddo's lunchbox.

 
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5 Ways to Include Leftovers:

Roasted and Steamed Veggies: Make extra steamed or roasted carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini spears, etc. to include in the lunch box the next day.

Cauliflower Rice: Sick of sandwiches? Include cauliflower rice with a leftover grilled meat and veggie kabobs.

"Would-otherwise-go-to-waste" Veggies: Have veggies that went untouched on your child's plate the night before? Add them to a egg frittata recipe or serve them up as mini egg muffin cups.

Rainbow Spring Rolls: Use rice paper to roll up a variety of veggies in a spring roll for dinner the night before, then send extra rolls for lunch the next day. For a bonus, tuck in some avocado or include a dipping sauce on the side.

Smoothies: Do you have a little extra green smoothie or cauliflower smoothie? Include in a pouch or leak-proof squeeze container.

 
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5 Recipes for Cold Favorites

These are awesome recipes you can prep ahead and enjoy throughout the week. Or, store some in an airtight container and stash in the freezer for another week when you run low on veggie-rich options or ideas!

Carrot Muffins: These are a staple in our house!

Zucchini Muffins: This one just came out in a cookbook I am drooling over...so good

Fruit and Veggie Mini Muffins: This recipe is such a smart way to get 

PB&J with Beet Berry Jam: Use a non-nut butter if your school requires it, but just don't forget to get those beets in your berry jam as a sweet way to boost the nutrition in this kids classic.

Apple + Kale Toddler Puffs: Seriously so easy to make and yet they maintain that light, airy texture toddlers love!

 
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5 Recipes for Heated Favorites

I know a lot of parents and kids wish they could have warm, comforting favorites sent for lunch -- especially as the school year progresses and weather starts to cool down. That is why I was SO excited to receive a OmieBox this year (affiliate link). With a space to keep warm foods warm, this lunchbox opens up a whole new world of opportunities, including kid-friendly ways to offer vegetables!

Hidden Veggie Mac n Cheese: Get that go-to orange color of mac and cheese without all the processed ingredients, but rather from REAL veggies!

Spaghetti: I love spaghetti sauce as a flavorful, family-friendly staple for getting veggies in. Add to whole grain or bean-based noodles, or put on top of zoodles!

Tomato Soup: this is perfect to serve with a side of grilled cheese

Tater Tots: These tend to be a toddler favorite for their soft texture and starchy taste. Consider baking up some of the more natural, nutrient dense "tots" or buying pre-made "puffs" that have sweet potatoes, or kale, or a combo of veggies!

Cauliflower Pizza: I am kind of amazed how well my kids (who notice ANYTHING "different!") took to this pizza crust alternative! Make your own or buy premade.


Want the grocery list for these products PLUS all the recipes for the items listed?

Healthy Carrot Muffins

These have long been a favorite of mine. Initially adapted from a recipe I found here, I have loved made these time and time again. They were a fave while burning calories breastfeeding (err...exclusively pumping), and now, I am introducing them to our newly one year old too.

The first time they were offered, she ate two (normal-sized)! So I think it is safe to say these will be a hit in our home for breakfast, snack time, and on the go.


Healthy Carrot Muffins

Gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, refined-sugar free

Yield: 15-18 muffins or 30-36 mini muffins

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

3 eggs, whisked well
2 very-ripe bananas, mashed well
1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp pure vanilla

Fold In:

1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins


Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper or silicone muffin liners, or brush muffin tin with melted coconut oil. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients. Mix well.

3. In another large bowl, add all wet ingredients. Mix until well combined and semi-smooth.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry. Stir until combined, then fold in carrots and raisins.

5. Use 1/4 cup scoop to add muffin batter to prepared muffin tins. Fill about two-thirds full.

6. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

7. Allow to cool on a cooling rack, then enjoy!


Notes on Ingredients:

For infants under one, use agave or real maple syrup.

For carrots, grate in a food processor (if available). If not, buy whole, large carrots. Wash well then grate on a cheese grater (no need to peel). Or, you may buy pre-grated (matchstick) carrots and fold in per the recipe for an especially easy option!


How to Batch-Cook this Recipe:

1. Prepare as instructed above, multiplying each ingredient by the intended number of batches (i.e. 1/2 cup almond butter per batch; for 2 batches, use 1 cup almond butter).

2. After fully cooked, cool completely on cooling rack. Transfer to freezer (on cooling rack or sheet pan) to flash freeze (for ~30 minutes).

3. Remove from freezer and transfer to freezer-safe container. Store extra batch(es) in the freezer until ready to eat. Then, thaw and serve.


Products I Used (affiliate links):

$116.37
$6.94
$9.05
$9.99

Want to get all set to make this recipe?

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