School snacks and superior nutrition don’t always go together. In a world of artificially colored “fruit” gummies and artificially flavored animal-shaped crackers, I’m here to share how we can upgrade the options.
Let’s talk about snacks that will balance our children’s blood sugar and contribute to their overall health.
What is the Fab 4?
The Fab 4 is my easy-to-implement and incredibly effective approach to eating for optimal well-being and blood sugar balance.
Protein, fat, fiber and greens deliver all of the macro and micro nutrients your child’s brain and body need to feel energized, even-keel and operating at full potential. It’s been tried, true and loved by everyone, including the littlest eaters.
And it’s not just for meal time. Keep reading to learn all about why I maintain my Fab 4 approach to snacking as well.
My Approach to Snacking:
While I’m generally not a fan of snacking for adults, I realize it’s healthy and normal for kids to have a snack between meals. Most children are extremely active and growing rapidly, so they can often benefit from a between-meal boost.
That said, I put a few bumper boundaries in place when it comes to my kids and snacking:
- Focus on the Fab 4. First and foremost, I’m looking for ways to offer my children protein, fat, fiber and greens for their snacks. These are what nourish their health and promote their well being at meals, and snacks are no different.
- No constant grazing. We don’t want to be continually elevating blood sugar by an endless buffet of snacks between meals. Additionally, constant grazing usually makes for poorer mealtime eating habits. I.e., your child won’t be hungry when it comes to his or her actual meal!
- No naked carbs. Few things spike blood sugar like eating a carb-heavy food alone. I always make sure to buffer my child’s carbs (such as fruit or crackers) with a high quality fat or protein (like raw nuts or guacamole). This keeps his blood sugar curve more stable and elongated.
- Focus on nutrient density. Rather than “What does he want?!” I like to ask the question, “What is best for his body?” I make sure every snack is first about nutrition and then about fun. And make no mistake, nutritional foods don’t have to sacrifice all the fun!
- Think twice about food quality. Most foods that test highest in heavy metals are actually lowest in quality. This includes mostly processed carbs like oats, wheat and other grains. For that reason I always try to opt for whole foods, especially regarding carbs, whenever possible.
Snacks should balance blood sugar versus spike it. Have I hammered this one home? Big spikes due to sugar-y or carb-heavy snacks often lead to undesirable behaviors in children such as mood swings, hunger-related emotional outbursts, difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, fatigue, etc. Additionally, the lack of a fully matured prefrontal cortex in children makes it extremely challenging for them to manage these big feelings. We are definitely not doing our little ones a favor when we set them up for spiking blood sugar and everything that comes along with it.
My whole intent when grabbing or prepping a snack for my child is to offer something that will nourish, stabilize and fuel his little body with long-lasting and stable energy.
Fab 4 Snack Examples
While the idea of serving up Fab 4 style snacks sounds great, sometimes we get in a mom-rut and grab for the same convenient thing over and over. Or we just cave to whatever our child asks for (Goldfish! Ritz crackers! Fruit snacks!) because we simply don’t have a better-but-still-convenient idea off the top of our head. I’m here to help.
These are the snacks I most often prep or purchase for my boys. And I feel great about knowing they deliver a nutritional punch while still offering something delicious and beloved by my boys:
- Apple slices (or even pear slices!) with nut butter - you can even turn them into apple nachos or better for you Girl Scout Carmel Delites! We love the Be Well Blends nut butters. Make sure to choose a nut butter with minimal ingredients. It should contain simply the nut or the nut plus sea salt.
- Raw nuts and seeds - These are so versatile, nutritious and easy to pack/travel. You can get creative and turn raw mixed nuts into a DIY trail mix by adding a few Hu Kitchen gems. Or serve raw nuts alongside any kind of fruit such as kiwis, berries, Cuties, melons, etc. to slow their digestion and blunt blood sugar spikes.
- Go Raw makes individually bagged sprouted pumpkin seed packs, which are easy to throw into a backpack or diaper bag. And Pili Hunters packs contain my favorite low carb nut. Regardless of which nuts or seeds you choose, be sure they do not contain added vegetable or seed oils, which are highly processed and inflammatory.
- Nut butter on celery - Again, we love the Be Well Blends nut butters. Hold the ants to make it a more blood sugar friendly combo.
- Raw vegetables with guacamole or hummus - Cucumbers, carrots and celery served with a guacamole cup or hummus cup is as quick and easy as it gets.
- Raw vegetables with a dressing - Primal Kitchen ranch dressing (code KELLYSFAVORITES) with carrots and celery are a staple snack in my home.
- Avocado slices rolled up in turkey - Just make sure to use nitrate-free turkey slices like those from True Story or Applegate.
- Crackers with hummus or guacamole - Upgrade your cracker and go for a cleaner and more macronutrient-friendly, fiber-rich option. We like Flax crackers, Simple Mills, Mary’s Gone Crackers and Hu Kitchen crackers. You can always make your own hummus or buy a store-bought version that doesn’t contain inflammatory/processed vegetable and seed oils.
- Snack plates - These are always a huge hit. Make it a Mediterranean plate with olives, nuts and a raw goat cheese. Or do a deconstructed parfait plate with unsweetened coconut yogurt, berries and some raw nuts. Serve it in a muffin tin for added fun.
- Berries and coconut cream - The ultimate dessert-like snack! Opt for a coconut cream that contains no gums or fillers like Native Forest Simple.
- Roasted veggies with a Primal Kitchen dressing (code KELLYSFAVORITES) or homemade dip. Honestly, we often use leftover roasted veggies, and they’re absolutely delicious with our favorite dressing!
- Meatballs - I have so many great recipes like my homemade paleo meatballs, Moroccan meatballs and no fail flax meatballs you can try. Double the batch to have extras which can be eaten for a snack with some Primal Kitchen ketchup and/or mustard.
- Serenity Kids pouches (use code FAB4) are my favorite easy to pack kids pouch. Their formulations are macronutrient friendly, made with high-quality animal protein, healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and organic vegetables.
- Chomps or Paleovalley beef sticks are easy, fast, convenient and satisfying because of the high protein content.
- Seaweed snacks are fantastic for their iodine, B12 and mineral content. Just make sure to purchase seaweed snacks made with olive oil as opposed to other vegetable or seed oils.
- Some of my favorite easy-to-grab vegetable packets include Thrive Market olive packs and Eat Poshi veggie packets.
- Brami lupini bean snacks are high in both fiber and protein as well as a rich source of nutrients.
- Lesser Evil organic popcorn snack packs - These are better than your conventional popcorn snack pack, as they’re made with coconut, ghee or avocado oil. A much better choice than most varieties you’ll find on the grocery store shelves.
- If you’re looking to make your own snack or get a little creative in the kitchen, I suggest trying my Refined Sugar-Free, Non-Dairy Chocolate Chip Protein Balls, Dairy Free Protein Perfect Bars or Homemade Granola Bars.
A Few Notes for Raising Empowered Eaters:
- Make it Fun: Maybe you have a picky eater. Maybe it’s been a struggle between you and your little one as you try to transition snacks from sugar-bombs to something more nourishing and healthy. It can help to infuse snack time with fun. You might find that what you serve automatically becomes more well-received. Here are a few ideas:
- Grab mini cookie cutters and go to town with fruits, veggies and more! Who doesn’t love eating food in the form of shapes?!
- Take a pinch of spirulina powder and stir it into coconut yogurt on St. Patty’s day for a green-colored treat (sans food coloring, and they won’t even taste the greens!). Try beet powder or any other healthy and natural “coloring” to make the food more festive and surprising.
- Serve snacks in muffin tins, condiment cups or other novel ways.
It’s so gratifying when your kids learn that healthy food can be fun, too!!
- Give them the Power: I like to empower my boys by creating a “help yourself” bin in my pantry. I choose what goes in the bin and they get to choose what they want from the bin at snack time. It eliminates power struggles, allows my boys to exercise some choice and ownership, but still ensures they are getting a nutrient dense, Fab 4-style snack.
How to Store your Snacks
As much as possible, it’s a good idea to move away from plastic containers. They often contain BPA, BPS and other “forever chemicals” which are extremely hard to detox from the body. Many of these chemicals are unfortunately known or suspected allergen irritants and endocrine disruptors. Silicone, glass and stainless steel are better options.
Here are my choices for packing snacks:
- Stasher bags - By far, this is my most-used container of choice for snacking. I use them to hold everything from berries to celery sticks, trail mix to bell peppers.
- Austin Baby Co silicone bento boxes are perfect for snacking on the go
- Think Baby makes stainless steel, insulated and leak-proof containers
- Elk and Friends makes adorable silicone snack pouch packs
- Thermos stainless steel containers are great if you want to keep snacks warm or cold. You can gently heat solids such as meatballs and know they’ll remain warmed in the container for a time!
- Mushie makes great snack containers, including their silicone snack cup.
- Protein-packed purchase that is nourishing for children and adults alike: Be Well Protein Powder
- Courses for further learning: Fab Four Fundamentals and Fab 4 Parenting
- A good back-to-school read: Keeping Your Immune System Strong and Healthy All Year Long
- More from the Fab 4 On the Go Series: Fab 4 On the Go: Road Trip
- Be Well Podcast: Sugarproof and the Hidden Dangers that are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk with Michael Goran and Emily Ventura
- Instagram: Fab 4 Packaged Snacks for Back to School Lunch Time
Now that you've got snack time covered, learn how I pack my boys back to school lunches here!