It seems like kids and teenagers are always looking for something to snack on. This is especially true in the summer when they are home all day! Prepared snack foods can get expensive, especially if your home is the neighborhood hangout, so here are some suggestions for tasty, easy to prepare snacks that also happen to be healthy and inexpensive.
Air-popped popcorn with a light amount of salt or other seasonings. Buying popcorn by the pound is much cheaper than getting microwave bags. If you like the convenience of cooking in the microwave, you can get special poppers or use brown paper bags (simply put 1/4 cup into a paper lunch bag, fold the top over tightly several times and cook for as long as a bag usually takes in your microwave). Do remember that popcorn is a choking hazard and should not be given to children under age 4.
Homemade freezer pops. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to making your own frozen treats. The traditional fruit juice made in popsicle molds is always popular, but try freezing yogurt in small paper cups or adding pieces of whole, fresh fruit. Do a web search to get ideas and inspiration.
Speaking of fresh fruit, fruit in season is cheap, healthy and easy to eat. Do buy only what you think you can reasonably eat before it goes bad and eat highly perishable fruits before ones that can hang out longer without going bad. Freezing excess fruit is a great way to prevent waste. You can give the kids frozen berries, grapes and melon to eat as is or use it to make delicious smoothies.
Hummus is high in protein and fiber and very easy to make at home. For a change, try recipes that call for black beans or roasted red pepper or any number of other variations. Hummus is a great dip for fresh veggies and homemade pita chips. If your children aren’t crazy about the taste of hummus, try other dips and spreads made out of other kinds of beans, lentils, peas or edamame.
Speaking of vegetables, most children are more likely to snack on their veggies if you make it very simple for them and provide a dip like hummus or salad dressing. A good way to get some extra veggies in is to have your child help you prep dinner and let them sneak a few pieces of broccoli or bell pepper strips after you’ve cleaned and trimmed them.
Instead of cookies, brownies and cakes, make homemade quick breads and muffins with whole wheat flour and fruit. You can cut down the sugar in most recipes slightly without affecting the taste and texture and add healthy extras like ground flax seed, shredded vegetables and oat bran. If you have a smaller family, you can freeze extras before they go stale and microwave them as needed.
Hard boiled eggs are full of protein, easy to make and very inexpensive compared to other protein sources, even if you buy the organic, cage free varieties. You can boil a week’s worth at a time and keep them in the fridge for a super easy snack or to make egg salad or deviled eggs for lunch. If your children aren’t crazy about eggs, look for other high-protein snacks that will keep them full such as cheese cubes, chicken strips (you can roast a few breasts or an entire chicken to use for snacks through the week) or cubes of tofu. Don’t forget legumes – you can roast chickpeas and other beans for a savory snack that is full of satisfying fiber and protein.