Snack Attack? Think Outside the Box
For some parents, back-to-school can mean back-to-dreaded-snack-duty – when you’re called upon to bring snacks to the classroom, the after-school program, the potluck or the sports team.
It doesn’t take long for kids (or adults!) to tire of the same old options and the nutritional value of store-bought snacks only goes so far. Add in concerns about food allergies if supplying snacks for a group and a simple bring-snacks request can quickly become overwhelming.
“A well-balanced snack should include carbs, protein and fiber,” says Joyce Huang, a clinical dietitian. While she notes that not all pre-packaged snacks need to be avoided – and acknowledges that food manufacturers are increasingly offering gluten-free, nut-free and other allergy-friendly options – she says many of the most popular items don’t check the right boxes for nutritional value. They also tend to contain lots of salt, sugar and preservatives and are often more expensive.
“In general, the more an ingredient is manipulated through processing, the fewer nutrients are left in it,” agrees Chef Educator Christina Vollbrecht.
Instead, both experts say, making your own snacks gives you complete control of ingredients, as well as plenty of creative license. And in terms of cost, making snacks at home can be more affordable than purchasing processed, packaged goodies.
Quick, Easy and Delicious
Here are seven ideas from our food pros to make snack-duty easier and healthier:
1. Stock up on oats: They go easily into muffins, energy bars and balls, and granola mixes. “Homemade oat bars travel really well, and they can be made with mashed banana or applesauce for natural fruit sugars,” says Huang. Plus, they can be frozen for up to six months.
2. Go for granola: Pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds can be added to granola for extra fiber and protein. They’re also a smart substitute for nuts in an allergen-friendly trail mix.
3. Avoid common allergens: Skip snacks that include these top food allergens. (Besides, the last two aren’t typically snack favorites for most kids anyway.)
4. Think chickpeas. They are a great source of protein for a homemade hummus or dip. They can also be oven-roasted by themselves and then seasoned for a crunchy, hand-held snack.
5. Try “nice cream.” Blend frozen banana with any kind of fruit, then refreeze until it’s as firm as you like. You’ll have an ice-cream-like treat that’s smooth, creamy and great for an afterschool or evening snack. “You can customize your flavors with different add-ins and really have fun with it,” says Huang.
6. Sneak in some veggies. “Shave any kind of root vegetable, and then bake the slices to make your own chips,” says Vollbrecht, who worked as a sous-chef in one of Washington, DC’s top restaurants before moving to Vermont. She’s also had fun experimenting with homemade crackers. “You can add seeds, chia, flax, whatever, and you can make them grain- and gluten-free.”
7. Freeze and go. Make no-bake ‘energy bites.’ “You can make a large batch every couple of weeks and keep them in the freezer, defrosting as needed,” says Vollbrecht, “They’re satisfying and they provide the energy to keep going. They’re great for a grab-and-go, to throw in lunch boxes or bring to a sporting event.”
Tasty, Healthy and Shareable Snacks
Here are two recipes from the UVM Medical Center Culinary Medicine team that are quick, easy and delicious. The Roasted Spiced Chickpeas are crunchy, savory and spicy, although you can use any combination of your favorite herbs and spices. The Carrot Cake Energy Bites are a sweet, chewy treat – no baking required!
Roasted Spiced Chickpeas
Makes 4 servings
1 15 ounce can of chickpeas – drained and rinsed, then dried with a towel
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 dash crushed red pepper
- Greek: Oregano, dill, garlic powder and onion powder
- Ranch: Parsley, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper
- Everything Bagel: Poppy seeds, white sesame seeds, onion flakes, garlic flakes and salt
- Preheat an oven to 350°F.
- Spread the well-dried chickpeas on sheet tray in a single layer.
- Roast in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned and slightly crispy, about 30 minutes.
- Whisk the oil, garlic powder, chili powder, sea salt, black pepper and red pepper together in a small bowl. Add the roasted chickpeas and toss to coat.
- Increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Return the well-coated chickpeas to oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn your oven off and let the chickpeas stay in oven for another 10 minutes to ensure crispiness.
- Serve and enjoy!
No-Bake Carrot Cake Energy Bites
Makes 22-24 bites
Allergen alert: Contains sesame and nuts
1 cup tahini
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 medium carrots, grated to make about 4 ounces or 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup pepita seeds, toasted and chopped
- Combine tahini, oats, macadamia nuts and chia seeds in a food processor; pulse until well combined and chopped.
- Add carrots, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, salt and pepper; process until all ingredients are well chopped and a paste begins to form.
- Combine coconut and pepita seeds and place on a sheet pan for rolling.
- Roll the mixture into balls using a scant 1 tablespoon each and coat energy balls with pepita and coconut mixture for a delightful finish.
Love Food and Recipes?
Visit the UVM Medical Center Culinary Medicine team online for tasty recipes and downloadable recipe cards. You can also visit our “What’s That Food” playliston YouTube for delicious recipe videos featuring fresh, seasonal produce and simple growing tips.