Ok, so if you have kids you know summer is a snack free for all. I think I hear about 3984298274 times a day, “Can I have a snack?” Finding a healthy balance for the constant snacking is a challenge so I’ve listed the help of my clean eating guru bestie to guide us down the path of healthy snacking. Kaylee is the best food blogger around, check her blog out at Clean Modern Mayhem. She let me pick her brain about snacking, food and where she shops.
Jessica: My kids snack all day, what are some healthy options? What do you give your kids? Are there even ANY pre-packed options that are clean or healthy? Do you have any great easy to make snacks for kids?
Kaylee: Same here girl, same here! My kids are chronic snackers! So, obviously fresh, whole foods are the best thing to consume in any instance. If we’re home, I always offer them fresh fruit or veggies first. And if they eat those and still want more, they can pick one thing from their designated snack basket. My fresh food snack go-tos are:
- Apples and nut butter
- Whole nuts and seeds
- Quality grass-fed cheeses (for my one dairy eater)
- Sliced cucumbers and carrot sticks with clean ranch (Tessemae’s is my favorite brand)
- Fresh fruit and veggie pouches
- So-sugar added apple sauce
- Sprouted bread with a topping like fresh fruit and honey
- Celery and nut butter with raisins or goji berries
- Hard boiled eggs
- Pre-made protein balls (that I make and keep on hand)
To answer your second question, YES. And thank the lord there are healthy options because, let’s be honest, we do not have the time or luxury of making something fresh for our kids every time they get hungry. This is why I keep an arsenal of healthy, clean snacks readily accessible to my kids. My top go-to pre-packaged snacks for kids are:
- RX Bars Kid
- Bubba’s Fine Foods Banana Chip and Nut Mix
- Made in Nature Figgy Pops Supersnacks
- Rhythm Superfoods Beet Chips and Carrot Sticks
- De-hydrated fruit
- Purely Elizabeth Granola with a good quality yogurt and, for my dairy-free babe, I use Kite-Hill Almond Milk Yogurt
- Quality-grass-fed jerkies and meat sticks (Chomps)
The best thing for kids is keeping it simple and having simple boundaries. I only put out what I am okay with them going to grab and snack on. Focus on finding snack foods that have super foods in them so, even though they are snacking, they are getting some great added nutrition. An example would be the Bubba’s Fine Foods Mix…they have super clean ingredients, turmeric which is amazing for anyone to consume, and great fats from the coconut oil that is essential for their growing brains. Read your labels and find products that do not have any added sugars because I think that’s the hardest thing with kids that are snacking constantly. They are consuming way too much sugar!
Jessica: What do you snack on? Do you have any great prepacked options? What’s your favorite snack to make for yourself?
Kaylee: Basically, I eat the same things I give my kids. But I am much more adventurous in my selection of produce and flavors. My super quick, go-to are:
- Fresh fruit and/or veggies w/ hummus or a clean dip
- Apples/pears with nut butters
- Hard-boiled eggs
I always make sure to have a good amount of those on hand. BUT we are always on the go! Thankfully there are a lot of brands with some great quality on-the-go snacks that I feel great about eating, even though they are pre-made. My favorites are:
- Epic Bars
- Jilz Crackers
- Siete Tortilla Chips with pico de gallo
- Quality salsa and/or guacamole (pre-made I get Hope Organics or I make my own)
- Purely Elizabeth Granola with Almond Milk or Kite Hill Yogurt
- All of the Simple Mills products
- Plant Snacks Super Seed Mix with Rootz Hummus
- Bubba’s (I’m addicted)
- Clean jerkies like The New Primal, Epic Bites, Chomps
- Zupanoma’s drinkable soups
- Good quality lunch meat
- Lara bars (if I have a sweet tooth)
- High quality chocolate with a handful or almonds
- Perfect Bars
- Macro Bars…just don’t go overboard with bars and make sure you’re eating balanced on days you have one.
My favorite snack to make for myself depends on if I want something sweet or savory. If sweet, I make apple or pear nachos where I slice the fruit and top them with nut butter, granola, chia seeds, and local honey. If I’m in the mood for savory, I love cutting up two hard-boiled eggs and mixing them with chopped avocado, toping them with a little salsa or pico de gallo.
Jessica: I am ALWAYS on the go, which I feel like is so common for moms. How do you snack healthy on the go?
Kaylee: Be prepared! Have a fridge stocked with fruits and veggies that you can grab as you’re flying out the door. Or grab some good quality lunch meats you can take along with you. Stock your pantry with snacks dense with protein and healthy fats, like the ones I mentioned above. Put a couple of these things in your purse or diaper bag so you always have something to grab in a pinch. Make sure you’re eating balanced and pay attention to labels and ingredients. Do not let yourself get starving and crash. This will help you avoid making un-healthy choices because you did not have any other option. EAT A GOOD BREAKFAST!!! If you make this a priority, you will less likely get stuck mid-day, hangry and making bad choices. You will be able to wait until you’re in a place to make or grab yourself something healthy.
Jessica: When you’re looking for snacks, what are some rules you stick to? Are there any ingredients that are a HARD pass?
Kaylee: My number one priority is finding brands and snacks that are loaded with superfoods and have ZERO added sugar. I feel good about eating something pre-packaged when I know I am getting nutritional value from it and that it’s not filling me up with a bunch of sugar and chemicals. I want my snacking to be as productive as possible. It may not be a full meal, but I’m eating a cracker loaded with chia seeds and flax seed, so I’m happy with the benefits I’m reaping from those added super foods. If something has any added sugar, it’s a hard pass for me. They’re getting sneaky about using different terms for sugar on their labels. I’m constantly looking up ingredients that I’m not familiar with to make sure I know what I’m up against. Once you do a little homework and find the brands you love, the leg work is done. If you can’t read or pronounce it, it or know what it is, do not eat it. I follow the same rule for what my kids eat.
Jessica: Do you snack often? Is snacking healthy? Should we even be snacking?
Kaylee: I’ve been known my whole life as the “queen of snacking” and I think that’s pretty typical of someone with a fast metabolism…hence why kids are always snacking. And don’t we all want to continue having a fast metabolism? I do! But that’s only possible if you’re snacking on things that are beneficial, not detrimental! There is a dietary theory called the ELMO Diet (EAT LESS MORE OFTEN), but the only way this would be beneficial is if you’re eating the appropriate things often. Eating Cheetos seven times a day isn’t a healthy diet just because you are eating them seven times a day. Eating sliced veggies, on the other hand, would be beneficial seven times a day because you would be loading up on a great fiber and vitamins, they are also calorie friendly so you can eat in a larger quantity! So yes, I think snacking is healthy. BUT it needs to be healthy snacking. The reason it can become unhealthy very quickly is because of the quality of the foods we’re snacking on and the additional things a lot of snack foods are loaded with (like sugar and simple carbs). If we’re snacking on good complex carbs, like veggies, lean protein (like turkey jerky or boiled eggs), and good fats (like nuts and avocados) then yes…it’s healthy!! I think our bodies are really freaking smart and if we fuel them with what we need, and listen to them, then we will be healthy whether you are snacking or not. If you don’t feel like eating, don’t eat. If your body is hungry and you need a snack, have a snack…JUST MAKE IT COUNT!
Jessica: Okay, help me when it comes to labels and nutrition information. Should I be looking at fat and calories? Or just the ingredients? There’s a lot of info on the back of boxes and bottles and, well, it’s kind of overwhelming… especially when your little ones are pulling your attention away.
Kaylee: Yes, it is extremely overwhelming. BUT, once you get used to it and know what you are looking for, it becomes second nature. So in terms of looking at the nutritional information on the back of the box, it all depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are currently trying to lose weight, then paying close attention to your macro-nutrients (i.e. fats, carbs, protein) and calories is important to stay within your limits. We get ourselves in trouble with snacks if we aren’t at least looking at them and considering their ingredients. We can very easily eat more than needed and be way over before we’ve even had our final meals of the day. When it comes to ingredients, you should ALWAYS pay attention to them. Like I said before, a good rule of thumb is “if you cannot pronounce it or know what it is, do not eat it.” Google is your friend, and do not be afraid to look something up. Once you do this 2-3 times, you’ll see a pattern and become a very fast label reader.
Jessica: I enjoy working out and I think a lot of my readers do too. I struggle with knowing what to eat pre and post workout. Do you have any good suggestions?
Kaylee: There are a lot of theories on this and you kind of have to find what works for you. You know, that whole bio-individuality thing. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s okay. But here are some things to try and see how you feel, and adjust accordingly. I personally like the 3:1 carb:protein ratio, especially if I’m going to be doing a lot of running or cardio. I will eat something with 3x higher complex carbs than protein to ensure I have those carbs to give me sustainable energy, but also some protein to fuel and help my muscles repair. And I’ll sometimes throw in a little healthy fat for that extra sustaining fuel. An example of that would be half of a sweet potato and a hard-boiled egg. Or some other form of lean protein like some tuna or turkey, and maybe half of an avocado. If pre-packaged, I would do oatmeal with some nuts, seeds or nut butter. Or a good ratio bar like the MacroBar which is the perfect 3:1 ratio. But there are some people that like a higher protein pre-workout snack and then eat more of their carbs after working out, to take advantage of that after-burn. Again, try one thing and see how you feel before, during and after your workout and you’ll find that perfect balance for you! One thing I definitely suggest for everyone is making sure you’re getting a good amount of protein inside of 90 minutes post-workout. Protein fuels muscle, muscle burns fat, so the more muscle you have the more fat you burn. Post-workout I have a clean protein shake mixed with either water or almond milk.
Jessica: So, I know water is always best, BUT sometimes that can get a little boring. Do you have any drinks you love? Are there any you completely avoid? And while we’re talking drinks…got ant great healthy adult beverage ideas? I love a glass of wine every now and then, but I’m sure there are some better options.
Kaylee: Yes, water is always best. But I agree…it does get monotonous real quick! Water aside, I still try and drink things that are mostly water so I’m meeting my water consumption for the day. Spindrifts are my favorite. They’re carbonated water with ZERO added sugars, flavored with fresh fruit juices. I also drink Kombucha on the regular. It’s an amazing probiotic, which helps build up the good bacteria in your gut. It’s still low on sugar, and what sugar is in there is naturally occurring, not synthetic or added. I love sparkling waters and adding fresh squeezed lime or lemon. Lemon water has a wide range of health benefits, so getting some in every day is a huge bonus. And last but not least…alcohol! So yes, it’s a bit oxymoronic to say “healthy alcoholic drinks” unless we’re talking about red wine, and that’s in small quantities with very high quality wine. BUT mama needs a cocktail every now and again, so my go-to is Tito’s Vodka, soda water and fresh squeezed lime. It’s zero added sugar and gluten free. I’ll also mixe a Spindriff with Tito’s Vodka and fresh citrus. It’s really about finding that balance and not over doing it on a regular basis. Vodka has the lowest calories and simple carbs, and next on the list is Tequila when it comes to liquor. So, if you can drink either of those with simple, clean, zero-sugar added ingredients, then those would be your best option. And, as I said, red wine has a lot of health benefits. The sugar that comes with red wine is a bit justified because of its benefits. Just don’t think that’s an invitation to drink a whole case…but I am not one to judge!
Jessica: Where do you find all of these yummy snacks?
Kaylee: I get a lot of the specialty items at Whole Foods or Nature’s Corner Market, which is a local grocer. But the main food in my house, fresh produce and meats, you can buy at any grocery store. A lot of those stores are stepping up their game and carrying a lot more quality items. But what I always tell people is do the majority of your grocery shopping at your store of choice and convenience, then out-source for the other specialty items you cannot find at yours. You can make a once a month trip to Whole Foods to stock up on those items, order them online directly from the company that makes them (especially Amazon now that it bought Whole Foods). Or you can do a membership with Thrive.com, which is a great way to get discounts and have these yummy, high quality foods delivered right to you!
Jessica: Okay, last one, promise. Can you snack too much on healthy things? Like is there such a thing as TOO much nut butter?
Kaylee: Yes, 100%…too much of anything is not good. I think a lot of people over-snack, even with healthy foods. That is why they aren’t successful in their goals. It’s all about balance. If eating a bunch of snacks between meals is hindering you from eating meals that are more balanced and nutrient dense, then it’s not a good thing. And yes, nut butters are definitely something to watch. They are great for you and have lots of nutrition packed in, but that’s just it. It’s packed in a very small quantity. Nut butters, and nuts in general, are high caloric foods so you don’t have to eat very many to meet you values. A good rule of thumb for nuts is to only eat what you can fit in your closed fist. Same goes for nut butters, but be careful since nut butters are more concentrated. Use them more as an enhancer, like a drizzle on your apple or toast and not the main part of your snack! Just pay attention to quantity and quality and you will be GOOD TO GO!!!
And when in doubt….eat an apple or some sliced veggies! They will never steer your snack-eating self-wrong, whether you’re a kid or not!