I'm so pleased to share a post with you today by Danielle of Danielle's Kitchen and Velveteen Mama. Danielle and I met in an online writing class taught by Meagan Francis last fall, and I was lucky enough to meet her in person this spring at Blissdom in Nashville. Danielle launched Danielle's Kitchen last month to focus on allergen-free food and eating well with allergies. We have toddlers about the same age so I asked if Danielle would share some recipes for on-the-go toddler snacks. Now excuse me while I go make some of of these nut butter balls. Enjoy!
As a food allergic family, we cannot rely on any packaged food to meet our needs for quick, on-the-go snacks.
This means we've had to get a little creative about our snack options and are used to toting our food with us wherever we go. A side benefit is that packaged foods are expensive and typically filled with all kinds of stuff we really don't want in the growing bodies of our children anyway.
Here are some ideas for healthy, on-the-go food that are friendly for toddlers, too. As a bonus, most of these are (or can easily be made) allergen-free.
Invest in some good quality small containers and it's easy to toss a few snacks in your bag on your way out the door.
Nut Butter Balls
Mix 3 parts nut or seed butter, 2 parts nutritional yeast, 1 part honey (or maple syrup) and a pinch or two of salt (to taste) until you have workable dough. Roll into balls and then roll in crushed cereal or nuts.
These are a great source of protein, healthy fats, and B vitamins. Store in the fridge or freezer and they'll stay firm in a snack box for a few hours.
For a treat for mom and dad, melt a few chocolate chips and roll the balls in chocolate before or instead of the chopped nuts. If you use peanut butter and coat them in chocolate, I'm told they taste strikingly like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Hard Boiled Eggs, Cheese Cubes, Deli Meat
Simple and accessible, these are all easy and relatively tidy protein sources. Paired with fresh fruit or veggies, they make a pretty complete lunch, too.
Sardines and Crackers
These might be a little messy on the go, but if you can get past the yuck factor, sardines are a great source of healthy omega fats and calcium (which is a boon for those of us who are dairy-free). My 15-month-old loves to be fed bites of sardine (yes, bones and all!) while munching on some rice crackers.
This is also a quick and easy lunch when you're stuck for ideas.
Fruit and Nut Bars
If you have a food processor and 30 minutes, you can make these.
Use a ratio of 1 part nuts/seeds to 1 part dried fruit, pick a nut and/or seed (cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds) and a moist, dried fruit (dates, prunes, raisins).
Lightly roast your nuts/seeds (if desired) and blend in food processor until pieces are small, but not granular. Remove nuts/seeds from processor and set aside in a bowl. Put your dried fruit(s) in the food processor and pulse until they form a paste. Go easy on your food processor so you don't send it into cardiac arrest! You might need to give it breaks to cool the motor.
Scrape your fruit paste into the bowl with your nuts/seeds and mix well (use your hands and get in there!). Either roll them into bars or press into a parchment lined pan and chill. When firm, cut into snack-sized bars. Store in the fridge or freezer.
They're not just for breakfast anymore! You can hide all sorts of nutrient dense things in pancakes. Try adding nut butter, protein powder, cottage or ricotta cheese, and/or mashed fruit (bananas, applesauce, pureed sweet potato, carrot or beets, etc).
Make ahead and keep them in the fridge or freezer. We like to warm them up in a toaster. Because we're gluten-free we omit any sweetener and use pancakes in place of bread on sandwiches, hot dogs/hamburgers and as toast. My kids also love to grab them for a quick snack.
These are a big hit around here as a snack or full meal. My six-year-old takes these to school for lunch in her thermos on a regular basis.
Put your chickpeas in a bowl, drizzle with oil or water, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast and titch of garlic powder. Tailor the amount to your tastes. Toss well and enjoy! The grown-ups like theirs with a bit of salt, too.
These can be eaten cold or heated up a bit. An alternative for older children: Drizzle with oil, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and a few pinches of salt. Toss well, then bake on parchment at 350F for 20 minutes or until crispy.
In a bowl mix some drained and rinsed black beans, chunks of avocado and/or tomato, and a squeeze of lime. Add a titch of onion, garlic and/or chipotle if your toddler likes those things. Adjust amounts to your liking.
This is a great finger food to enjoy alone or with bits of soft tortilla.
My toddler eats this right off the spoon, but yours might enjoy dipping carrot sticks or crackers in it. Mine will dip carrots in his, but then he just sucks it off and goes back in for another dip. If you're worried about choking on bits of carrot or cracker, just keep an eye on your little one to make sure they don't bite off big chunks.
My favorite hummus recipe is 1 can of chick peas, 1/4 cup of reserved liquid from the can, 1/4 cup sesame tahini, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 large (or 2 small) cloves garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend in a blender or food processor. Add more of the reserved liquid until you get the consistency you want and adjust garlic, lemon and salt to your tastes. Easy breezy!
Granola is a great way to exercise that toddler pincer grasp and by making your own, you can tailor it to your individual families tastes and needs.
My basic recipe is 3 cups oats, 3 cups seeds/nuts/dried fruit, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon (optional), 3 tsp ground chia seed (optional), 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey, 1/4 cup oil, and 1/4 cup applesauce. Mix together and bake at 350F checking every 10 minutes, tossing or flipping occasionally, until cooked to your desired crispiness. Store in an airtight container.
Other Snack Bars and Bean-Based Goodies
Chocolate Covered Katie is one of my favorite websites for healthy, tasty, vegan snacks. I'm not vegan, but her recipes contain healthy fats and proteins that are often portable for on-the-go parents. Here are some favorites that mimic store-bought treats:
- Quaker-Style Chewy Granola Bars. I can't wait to try these!
- Snickerdoodle Blondies (but they're good for you!) These use white beans or chickpeas as a base and you cannot taste them!
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookie LaraBars (nut-free) (nut-free)
Eating healthy and wholesome food doesn't have to be hard or tricky. With some imagination and a little preparation it is relatively easy to have handy snacks your toddler will love and you will feel good about eating.
What are some of your favorite go-to toddler snacks to have while you're out and about? What do your little ones love to eat?
Danielle is a mom of three, writer, and veteran allergen-free whiz in the kitchen. When she's not whipping up safe meals and treats for her family that are free from gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts and (usually) eggs, she can be found reading, writing, or knitting. She blogs about the joys and struggles of being human atwww.velveteenmama.com and her allergen-free wisdom and goodies can be found at www.danielleskitchen.com.