Making Sweet Snack Memories

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

When a friend asked me recently for snack suggestions, especially for a daughter who isn’t big on fruit, I was pulled up a little short. We have fairly haphazard snacks, with one child who eats three meals a day and calls it good, and another who finds hunger hitting at the most inopportune moments.

My friend’s question came with a conversation about our mutual dislike of snack time at sports. I often fight the urge to fuss at other mothers, who blithely go around at the first practice with their snack sign-up lists. Stop the snacks! Our kids are not starving, and if yours for some reason are, then bring your own food. My children, at least, do not need a box of juice (should that read “juice”?) and a bag of chips, or sweet cereal, or Rice Krispies Treats, 30 minutes before lunch, or at 8 p.m. when the baseball game ends, or really, ever.  Do we truly want to teach them that any physical exertion requires an ending sweet? A glass of water will do fine, thanks.

I don’t object, at least not completely, to snacks at school. I’m willing to acknowledge that many children do better with a little mid-morning boost, especially if they had to eat breakfast at 6 a.m. and won’t eat lunch until 12:30. But I think we’re setting kids up to be unable to tolerate a touch of hunger, to reach the point where they are truly hungry and thus will eat every last carrot slice or pepper strip that we valiantly put in their lunchboxes.

And if we’re going to insist on school snacks, please, please, please, ditch the goldfish. How did these nutritional know-nothings become the default snack? A bit of fruit, a small cup of yogurt (and not that squeezable junk that masquerades as yogurt), a few nuts or an ounce of cheese — this is more than enough. And water, water, water.

OK, there’s the rant. Now, what to offer when your kids really do want a bite after school?

For starters, I aim to stop a snack attack as early in the afternoon as possible, so they’re still ready for supper. I also understand, from my own cravings, that sweet hits the spot at 3 p.m. — but so does protein.

So, some snack suggestions:

A banana with peanut butter, and possibly just a few mini chocolate chips sprinkled on if your 7-year-old has smothered you with kisses.

Half a grilled-cheese sandwich: We like to include thin slices of apple in the sandwich. I cut the apple on a cheap slicer, and we eat the extra pieces alongside the sandwich — somehow super-thin apple slices seem like a treat. (I used a gift certificate to get a panini press, something I would never have spent the money on otherwise, and I have to say I adore it. Although I love grilled sandwiches that have the outsides buttered, there’s no need for butter with the press).

Half a grilled peanut butter and honey sandwich, with banana slices if you like.

Stovetop popcorn: My air-pop machine still hides somewhere in the recesses of my pantry shelves, but it’s time to give it away. It makes flavorless, chewy popcorn. On the stove, though, we make utterly delicious popcorn, and it’s fun for kids to shake the pot around (carefully, with oven mitts on). Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of canola oil to 1/3 to 1/2 cup popcorn. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high heat, toss in a few kernels, and when they start to pop, add the inrest of kernels and cover. Shake the pan often, and when the popping slows to a crawl, remove from the heat and immediately pour into a serving bowl. Great plain, it’s also tasty with a little olive oil drizzled over or some grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled in. Store extra popcorn kernels in a plastic bag or box in the fridge; the moist environment keeps them ready to pop.

Deviled eggs, or just a hard-boiled egg with a dash of salt or a thin slice of cheese on top.

Banana bread sandwich: two thin slices of banana bread with a thin filling of peanut butter or cream cheese.

A small cup of chocolate pudding, made with low-fat milk and cornstarch, not butter and egg yolks.

Granola bars.

Yeast-raised waffles: Spread with a little peanut butter, or drizzle with a touch of syrup and top with blueberries. Make the batter ahead for fresh-cooked waffles, or freeze them once baked. Made with white whole-wheat flour, they’re a reasonable treat.

Carrot balls (based on a Martha Stewart recipe): Mash together to taste some cream cheese, grated cheddar or Swiss cheese, grated carrots, and a truly tiny pinch of cayenne pepper. Roll the mixture into small balls, then roll the balls in more grated carrots, or in crushed walnuts.

Cookies and fruit: No matter what, when we have a snack, it must include fruit (or, if it’s taste-appropriate, grape tomatoes or sweet red pepper strips). Often my children have cookies in their lunchboxes left over from whatever custom baking I’ve done, but those tend to be pure sweet, lacking much redeeming nutritional value. In moderation, this bothers me not a bit. But when we need a second sweet for the day, we have to aim a bit higher. I start by making my cookies small, in the belief that two small cookies seem more satisfying than one big one. Then, I go for cookies that have something worthwhile, and usually, that’s oats. I love oatmeal cookies, oatmeal-peanut butter cookies and oatmeal-cranberry cookies.

What’s your best snack? (Or, your best snack rant?)

Recipe: Banana Bread

Recipe: Hot Chocolate Pudding

Recipe: Great Granola Bars

Recipe: Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Recipe: Yeast-Raised Waffles

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