Healthy & Fast Summer Break Snacks

Summer break is almost here — and so are all the joys and struggles of having the kids out of their school routine. Whether you are watching them at home, prepping for summer camp, or packing for a family vacation, you may be wondering what snacks are best to fuel your kids through their active days. 

This week we have a special treat…a guest post from one of our many amazing community volunteers…Larissa Banitt! As a 2021 OHSU graduate with a BS in Nursing, Larissa knows her stuff when it comes to healthy living. Larissa kindly offered to write this post for us so we can get ready for the summer by making healthy decisions starting with what we grab in the shop for our kids to snack on. 

Mom checking in with small child and text overlay that reads "How to Prepare Healthy Snacks for Your Kids".

It can be easy to reach for the pre-packaged items like chips, fruit roll-ups, and snack packs since they are fast and convenient — and may be favorites of your kids already. Many of these snacks are highly processed and full of “empty calories,” meaning they provide energy, but little else of nutritional value for your kids’ health {Harvard Health Publishing: “Understanding Empty Calories.”}.

Foods that are highly processed have been shown to increase hunger levels {Cell Metabolism: “Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake.”}. Similarly, foods that are high in carbohydrates — like sugar, chips, and white bread — have been shown to cause an early spike and fall in blood sugar, making you hungry quicker {Appetite: “Return of Hunger Following a Relatively High Carbohydrate Breakfast is Associated with Earlier Recorded Glucose Peak and Nadir.”}.

What are the Keys to a Healthy Summer Snack?

If you are used to grabbing those pre-packaged snacks for your kids, it can be overwhelming to think about starting from scratch. The good news is it is easy to make delicious and nutritious homemade snacks your kids will love eating.

Here are a few nutrients you’ll want to keep in mind when crafting the perfect snack.

Protein. Protein is great to include in snacks. It fills kids up faster and keeps them full for longer. Protein is also important for building lean muscle and for recovery after exercise {Piedmont: “Why is Protein Important in your Diet?”}. If your kid is particularly active, this is a great choice to keep them fueled.

Protein is found in meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes {Harvard: “The Nutrition Source: Protein.”}. This means meat jerky, cheese, nut butter, and hummus — made from chickpeas, a legume — are all great snack options for protein.

 Fiber. Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. It’s great for snacks because, like protein, it also helps kids stay full longer.

You may be asking yourself, “wait, didn’t I just read that carbohydrates make you hungry quicker?” Unlike the type of carbohydrates mentioned earlier found in less healthy snacks like chips and candy bars — fiber helps regulate blood sugar and prevents big spikes and crashes {Harvard: “The Nutrition Source: Fiber.”}. This blood sugar regulation actually helps prevent your kids from feeling hungry too soon after eating.

Fiber also helps kids feel full longer because it adds volume to their snacks and takes longer to digest {Mayo clinic: “Healthy Lifestyle: Weight Loss.”}. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.

Vitamins. Adding foods with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to your kids’ snacks promotes health and prevents disease {Better Health Channel: “Fruits and Vegetables.”}.

You may have heard the phrase “eat the rainbow.” This refers to the fact that fruits with different colors have different vitamins in them, so by offering a variety of colors you are ensuring that your kids are eating a variety of vitamins too {Better Health Channel: “Fruits and Vegetables.”}.

 High water content. Keeping kids hydrated during the summer can be a challenge, especially if they don’t like drinking water. One way of sneaking hydration is to include snacks that are high in water content {Cleveland Clinic: “Dehydrated? These 7 Foods Will Satisfy Your Thirst and Hunger.”}.

Water-dense foods add bulk and volume to your kids’ snacks, helping them to feel full and satisfied longer before they need their next snack break {Mayo clinic: “Healthy Lifestyle: Weight Loss.”}.

Fruits and vegetables are good places to find high water content. If it is juicy or crunchy, odds are good it is high in water. For example, watermelon, strawberries, celery, cucumbers, and jicama are all high in water content.

egg wich turkey sausage sandwiches

Putting it all together: Snack Ideas.

Now that you know some of the things to keep in mind, let’s put it all together. One snack doesn’t need to have all of the components above. Try to play around with ways of combining them when you can.

Jicama with lime and salt. Jicama is a root vegetable high in fiber, water, and vitamin C — so it hits three out of four of our keys to a healthy snack {Healthline: “8 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Jicama.”}.

It is often served with lime and salt on top, making it a great healthy substitute for salty chip-lovers. You’ll need to cut off the tough skin and slice it into strips, but that’s all the prep that’s required for this easy snack.

Fruit kabobs. Fruit is high in water, fiber, and vitamins. Another three out of four snack.

This is an easy one, and fun to make with the kids. Simply cut up your favorite fruits into bite-sized pieces and slide them onto a skewer.  Don’t forget to eat the rainbow.

 Egg salad on whole-grain toast or lettuce boat. Eggs are high in protein, so egg salad is a filling option. Either buy some at the store or mash a few hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise and mustard for a simple egg salad of your own.

Whole grain toast also adds some protein, as well as fiber, and lettuce is high in water, so whichever you decide to use adds something healthy to this snack.

 Apple and carrot slices with peanut butter. This snack doesn’t get much easier to prepare and contains all four of the healthy components mentioned above. Apples and carrots have vitamins, fiber, and water and peanut butter is high in protein.

 Vegetables and hummus. Vegetables and hummus also hit healthy snacking out of the park. Vegetables like snow peas, bell peppers, carrots, and celery are full of fiber, water, and vitamins — and also great for dipping. Hummus brings the protein and is great for those with nut allergies or looking for a vegetarian/vegan protein source.

shopper grabbing item from cooler

A huge thanks to Larissa for this post filled with ideas to keep our kids (and us) healthier this summer. As a recent graduate from the OHSU nursing program, we are honored to have her share some of her knowledge with us.

picture of Larissa in striped dress

Calling All At Home (or outside of the Home) Chefs and Cooks

Do you enjoy experimenting with new recipes? Or maybe you stumbled upon a delicious combination of foods that you are itching to tell someone about?  If you have simple recipes or food inspiration ideas to share, we are ready for them! Just email steph@bcsi.org or contact us here.

Never heard of Birch Community Services?  Find out more about this great program and if it’s the right fit for your family!

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