The below was written by Jamie Lee McIntyre. MS RDN.
Are you falling into a bit of a rut with having to create healthy snacks, on top of home school, keeping up with your house, work, and everything else? You’re not alone! Healthy eating in our home is a natural byproduct of my career as a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, but it doesn’t always come easy with the ever-changing pallets of my four-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. To shake things up at home I decided to turn snack time into a hands-on learning opportunity and fun activity. This led to the creation of our Family SNACKtivities! A few days a week, we pick a favorite Disney character, animal, or book and create a snack theme around it. It’s kept things interesting and entertaining in the kitchen and makes food exploration a stress-free activity with the little ones.
As a parent, you want your child to eat healthy, but often you may find that your efforts turn into a power struggle. Did you know that it can take up to thirteen exposures before a child starts to accept a new food? It is important to promote nutritious choices while also fostering a positive relationship with food at these young ages – which is much easier said than done. One of my top tips for getting kids to accept new and healthy foods sooner in the process is by having them help with food preparation to create a sense of ownership in what you are serving. Small children may not be able to use a knife or mandolin for slicing vegetables, but they can help in other safe ways with adult supervision and collaboration. Toddlers and preschoolers can: wash and dry produce, dump and stir ingredients, layer items (like in a parfait) and arrange toppings. Older children can help the younger crowd while also using a plastic knife to cut soft foods, measure and weigh ingredients, and read recipes aloud. Before you know it, the whole family is involved!
Try some of my favorite Snacktivities below to help you get started!
First up is everyone’s favorite snowman, Olaf! We created him out of banana slices (for his body), mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (for his eyes and buttons), broken pretzel pieces (as his arms and hair) and a slice of frozen mango (for his nose). We even gave him his own personal flurry with shredded coconut!
Put it together:
Slice three banana slices and slide onto a skewer or Popsicle stick. Position three chocolate chips as buttons on the bottom two banana slices, and two more chocolate chips as eyes side-by-side on the top banana slice. Break off small pretzel pieces and stick two into each side of the middle banana slice as arms, and one shorter pretzel piece on the top perimeter of the top banana slice as hair. Shave a small piece of frozen mango to position as a nose below the two chocolate chips on the top banana slice. Position your Olaf snack onto a plate and sprinkle with shredded coconut flurries!
Teddy Bear Toast
Next up is our Teddy Bear toast in honor of Winnie the Pooh! For this snack, you’ll need one slice of toast, one tablespoon nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew or an allergy-friendly substitute such as soy nut butter or sunflower seed butter), 2 mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, three banana slices, one blueberry and half a teaspoon of honey.
Put it together:
Mix your honey and seed or nut butter together in a small bowl then spread the mixture evenly onto your lightly toasted slice of bread. Position two banana slices as ears in the two top corners of the toast, and one banana slice in the center of the toast. Add two chocolate chips above the center banana slice as eyes. Place one blueberry on top of the center banana slice. Drizzle extra honey around your Pooh Bear for extra licking!
We’ve had a little bunny rabbit visit our backyard every day since the first day of spring. My kids fell in love with him immediately! For this, you’ll need some bacon or ham as ears, scrambled eggs, mozzarella string cheese, chocolate chips as eyes (feel free to substitute blueberries or raisins), and a small round carrot coin slice.
Put it together:
To make your egg round, use the microwave method for cooking your egg, or use a circle cookie cutter to shape the egg as it cooks in a pan on the stove. For the microwave method, select a large round microwave-safe coffee mug and spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Crack your egg directly into the mug and add a splash of milk (optional). Gently beat the egg until well mixed and then place in the microwave for 30 second intervals (you should only need 30-60 minutes for one egg, and up to 90 seconds for two eggs but be sure to keep a watchful eye as different appliances will cook faster and slower). Place the circular cooked egg onto a plate. Cut your cheese stick in half, carefully slice tiny whiskers on two pieces, and then position opposite each other in the center of your round egg. Position your small carrot coin in the center. Position your two chocolate chips as eyes. Allow bacon strips or sliced ham to cook stove top until cooked through and cut into ear shapes. Position at the top of your round egg as ears. Now your Bunny Rabbit is complete!
Hidden Mickey Mini Pizzas
We couldn’t pass over the chance to bring the original Disney character into our snacktivities so check out these Hidden Mickey Mini Pizzas! For these, you can use mini bagels as show here, or mini rounds of pizza dough, or even English muffins. You’ll also need mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and sliced black olives.
Put it all together:
Spread a thin amount of tomato sauce onto your bagel or choice of bread surface. Next, layer on your mozzarella cheese evenly over the sauce. Arrange black olive slices in three’s around your mini pizza in the shape we all know and love – a hidden Mickey! Toast in the toaster oven until cheese is melted (5-10 minutes but watch closely). We finished our pizzas with a light sprinkle of dried basil leaves. Oh boy!
Pluto’s Frozen Yogurt Bark
When I said the word “bark,” my kids had a one-tracked mind for dogs rather than a tasty treat that breaks apart into small pieces, so we themed this around Pluto! You will need two cups plain yogurt, half teaspoon vanilla extract, one teaspoon honey or maple syrup, a pinch of Salt, one cup frozen or fresh mango cut into cubes (orange or clementine segments work well too) and semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Put it together:
Mix yogurt, vanilla, sweetener of choice, and your pinch of salt in a bowl and set aside (skip this step if using pre-flavored/sweetened yogurt). Next, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the yogurt to the baking sheet and smooth evenly into a flat surface. Arrange mango or fruit segments in the shape of a dog bone and repeat two more times. Press each segment firmly down onto the baking sheet to secure it in place. Lightly sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Freeze tray upright on a flat surface in the freezer for two hours. Once frozen, break into pieces, serve, and enjoy!
Excited to get in the kitchen and try these out? Good! Have fun turning your next snack time into a fun hands-on learning activity that fosters creativity and promotes healthy eating! Challenge your family to come up with fun ideas featuring your favorite characters, books and animals! How many new snacktivities can you come up with?
Jamie Lee McIntyre MS RDN is a practicing Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and Nutrition Communications Specialist at JamieLeeRDN.com. Her science-based nutrition tips for real life have been featured on ABC, NBC and FOX broadcasting affiliates and in publications such as NBC News, Hearst Media, and on numerous podcasts, websites and social media outlets.