Written by Christine @ So Domestically Challenged, Contributing Writer
Breaking old habits is hard and if you didn’t start your kids out eating healthfully, it’s hard to get them to enjoy doing so. To avoid fighting a battle at every meal and snack time, I usually change things out slowly, making swaps: changing an unhealthy food for a new healthier alternative. Here are my favorites.
7 Easy, Healthy, Kid-Approved Snack Swaps
100% Organic juice with no additives for regular juice
The main idea here is to get rid of all those additives. If you ever flip over a bottle of juice and read the ingredients, you’ll usually find a ton of added sugars, flavors and dyes. Last time I checked, fruit was pretty sweet on its own and didn’t need all that stuff, so why give it to children? What you want to find is a juice that 100% juice or at least 100% natural with no added sugar. Some people don’t like to purchase juice from concentrate, but if your budget, like mine, limits you to that, it’s okay. Making small changes is better than making no changes. If possible, buy organic, especially when purchasing a juice made from one of the dirty dozen foods, like grapes.
While these juices are a bit pricier, their popularity is causing a lot of grocery chains to offer their own versions that don’t break the bank. My grocery store tends to charge a bit more than a dollar extra for store brand organic juices, which makes it easier not to break the bank. Also, since these juices are so sweet on their own, they’re incredibly easy to dilute with a little water, which can stretch your money a little farther.
Almond Butter for Peanut Butter
The first time I tried almond butter, it was grainy and awful. But I mentioned it to a friend who had made the switch and she said “oh, that brand? That brand is gross. There are way better ones out there.” A few years later, I did try again after reading various reviews of other brands. She was right. There are a number of almond butters that are amazing. So amazing, in fact, I don’t think our family will ever go back to peanut butter.
Our family’s favorite is the MaraNatha brand. There are quite a few choices and though the Creamy No-Stir one isn’t the healthiest of them all, it is our family’s stand out favorite. It’s creamy and sweet and delicious. If you’re a bit hungry or just craving sweets, a small teaspoon of it is completely satisfying.
Almond butter goes great with sliced apples, celery and my 9-year-old’s favorite: pretzels. If your family likes almond butter and you want to try another nut butter, I’ve heard great things about cashew butter and hazelnut butter (not Nutella). These two can be much harder to find though and typically have to be ordered online or purchased at a specialty shop.
Roasted Seaweed instead of Chips
If your kid is a bit daring and willing to try new things, you’ve got to give them some roasted seaweed. These snack packs are found in the chip aisle and also with International foods and come in a variety of flavors. You can get them plain, salted, sweet or spicy and the crispy texture combined with choice of flavor makes a great substitute for chips. It’s roasted, not fried an entire pack is usually only about 60 calories.
“Simple” yogurts instead of regular or kid-branded ones
Have you ever read the label of a kid’s yogurt? There’s a ton of frightening stuff in there: chemicals you can’t pronounce and tons of dyes because kid’s won’t eat it if it’s not a circus color, right? Flip over a “simple” yogurt and you’ll find exactly what should be there: the same fruits listed on the front of the package, milk and maybe some other natural, easy to pronounce stuff. It’s a no-brainer. Not only that, but neither of my kids ever noticed when I made the switch to the simple yogurts: The flavor is still great without all that added junk.
Organic mac n cheese instead of store brand
I’ll admit that Kraft is getting better about this and I hope this is a trend we’ll keep seeing with big companies. While we haven’t tried the new Kraft macs yet, we have been buying organic mac from a couple of other companies for a while and my mac-addicted kiddos claim the organic stuff is way more delicious. The two favorites in my house are Annies and Back to Nature. Both are amazing and both can be purchased at warehouse stores (Annies at Costco and Back to Nature at Sam’s), so the cost of them becomes about the same as buying a name brand, non-organic variety.
Hummus instead of ranch dip
While ranch dip is delicious and you can purchase low-calorie or low-fat varieties, hummus is all natural. Not only that, but hummus is a great source of iron. This is really important if your child doesn’t eat a lot of meat or has an iron deficiency (My own daughter is both). There are some delicious varieties of hummus at the grocery store or for even more health benefits, you can make your own. It’s super simple and comes out delicious (and it’s great at parties). Pair it with pita bread, crackers or veggies. And for more iron-packed goodness, serve it with orange juice: it will increase iron absorption.
Home made chips instead of store bought
I know this one looks a little scary, but it’s not too tough. Store bought chips are usually fried and are covered in who knows what kind of flavorings. For an amazingly delicious and easy to make alternative, you can pick up one of this Top Chips Maker for around $15. Simply slice your potato, sweet potato, squash, etc. and place on the ring. Then cook it in the microwave and you’ve got instant, fresh chips. My pickiest eater loves these more than anything he’s had store bought, and from him, that’s a huge endorsement.