We all run out of snack ideas for our kids from time to time, and can occasionally be found staring into the cupboard trying to convince ourselves that this isn’t the fourth day in a row that we have fed them chocolate Hobnobs in that tricky hour before dinner. There’s nothing wrong with a Hobnob but it’s good to have some other options up our sleeves. And as a parent of a child with nut allergies, those options can sometimes seem even more limited.
Nutritionists love the idea of healthy snacks and most argue that kids should be offered snacks twice a day between the three main meals to keep them ticking along…. That’s a lot of snacks to come up with! Nutritionists argue that only around 20% of what we feed our kids should be sweet, and snacks are an important element of this. There are plenty of good nut-free options for both, whether you choose make your snacks at home, or buy them over the counter. If the latter, then it goes without saying that ingredients should always be checked for nut-allergy warnings, and it’s great that products these days (especially those aimed at children) are labelled clearly with individual ingredients and ‘may contain’ warnings.
If your eyes begin to glaze over at the prospect of homemade snacks, conjuring up images of spending hours making slightly flat muffins which are stale within 24 hours, then don’t worry – there are plenty of recipes out there that are quick, use regular ingredients, will last almost a whole school week and, perhaps most importantly, kids like them too!
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each. Shop bought snacks are great. They are cheap, require very little prep, are portable and tend to be long lasting. On the downside, they can contain very high levels of sugar and salt, the may look nut free but often are labelled ‘may contain nuts’, they often dumb down food (yes I am talking to you Stringy Cheese!), can be much more expensive (you again Stringy Cheese) and often have unnecessary marketing on the packaging…. “Yes, it does have Captain America on the packet but do you know what it is?”….”No, but I want it.” (an annoying conversation I regularly have with my son in supermarket!!).
There are pros and cons to homemade snacks too; the big advantage is that you know exactly what is in them which can be super important for nut allergies, especially if you have a very allergic child who can’t risk ‘may contain’.
Home baking can take a bit of time, but this can actually be a benefit as time spent cooking socially in the kitchen can be a great way for families to bond whilst learning new cooking skills. They may work out a bit more expensive but, hey, you get what you pay for. One of the biggest disappointments can be if you make a batch of something and no one likes them… it happens to all of us!
For me, one of my biggest issues with a lot of homemade snacks is shelf life. I hate making snacks which are past their best as soon as they have cooled down…. but there are plenty of recipes that will survive the school week (read on!).
Before we get onto my favourite homemade snacks let look at great nut-free over the counter options:
• Rice cakes
• Cheese (and nut free crackers)
• Veg and dips
• Pita and dip
• Beef jerky
• Hard boiled eggs
• Bars and biscuits
• Fruit pops
• Dried fruit
When it comes to making your own, there are some amazing recipes out there and more and more taking into consideration different dietary requirements but it comes down to a matter of time for us; 1) how long will it take to make? 2) How long will they last? Time in the kitchen is precious and there are other priorities other than making homemade snacks but can be good to do with kids.
Many recipes can also be adapted by swapping nuts out for seeds or using seed butter instead of peanut butter, if your child can tolerate seeds.
These are some of my own favourites from out there in internet land:
• Ciara at My Fussy Eater has a great recipe for a healthy version of Rice Krispy treats. http://www.myfussyeater.com/healthy-coconut-puffed-rice-treats/
• Brilliant nut free granola bars from The Fairy Food Mother that are packed with protein and great for the lunch box. http://laurengayfer.co.uk/gluten-free-granola-bars/
• Love these lollies from The Flexitarian (aka the flexible vegetarian). Simple but effective! https://theflexitarian.co.uk/recipe-items/watermelon-lollies-vegan-low-sugar/
• Angela at Oh She Glows has an amazing recipe for no-bake chocolate fudge cookies. No baking…. no nuts…. and included chocolate…. what more could you ask for. http://ohsheglows.com/2016/04/28/no-bake-chocolate-fudge-cookies-2/
• This is one of mine and a family favourite imported from a friend in Australia. The kids love it even though it has kale in it. Who’d have thought! http://progressivefamilyfood.com/green-bar/
• Homemade snacks don’t all have to be sweet. Holly at Recipes from a Normal Mum was a finalist on the Great British Bake Off; Season 2…. so she knows a thing or two about baking… and it shows in this recipe for sage and cheese crackers. http://www.recipesfromanormalmum.com/2016/06/28/sage-and-cheese-crackers/
So the options are plentiful… from a fist full of raisins to lovingly baking sage and cheese crackers fit for Mary Berry! Supplying nut free snacks should not be a chore and needn’t be so. Don’t be scared to make your own and mix up your offerings of homemade and shop bought stuff! It is all too easy to get stuck in a snack rut, hopefully with these options at hand everyone will find something that works for them!