Healthier ‘unhealthy’ snacks for outings

Natasha Gavin, from I Know Why it’s Yum Mum!, recently told us how to cope with snacking at outings and events, such as the Olympics. Here is her list of top healthier ‘unhealthy’ snacks for kids on the go.

Healthier 'unhealthy' snacks for kids on the go

by Natasha Gavin, I Know Why It’s Yum Mum! 12th July 2012

Are snacks healthy?

This is MY list, not anyone else’s. It is really hard to talk about ‘healthy’ v ‘unhealthy’ snacks, because everyone has their own views. And what I have realised is that a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous AND wonderful thing. I am far more informed now about what goes into my children’s tummies, and how calling it ‘healthy’ is possibly stretching the truth. Even those lovely packets of dried fruit have lost their guilt free conscience (due to the preservatives, Sulphites, if you want to know). There are too many nutritional facts to go into here, but basically all processed (ie prepared/ cooked) snacks are far less healthy than unprocessed. Same goes for drinks (ie water and milk are best). So try to at least maintain a balance between the two. My philosophy is it’s all relative: better children eat raisins coated in chocolate, than a whole bar of chocolate. On that note, here are some ideas for your bag of treats.

Healthier ‘unhealthy’ snacks

  • Dried fruit- full of vitamins, minerals and fibre (BUT sugar too- so not great for teeth. Try to encourage children to drink water when eating sweet things, as this will help wash off the sugar from the teeth).
  • Dried fruit in yoghurt, or even chocolate- they are better than a whole packet of chocolate buttons.
  • Banana chips/ banana crisps (a few vitamins, and very moreish and crunchy, but very high in saturated fat- banana crisps are much lower in fat than the chips). And of course, dried banana or fresh banana would be better.
  • Popcorn -ideally homemade, with a bit of salt, or sugar. Good microwave packets are available. This will take them ages to eat, and won’t fill them up too much. So a really good option.
  • Cereal bars – crunchy, oaty ones, or ones with choc chips and honey. (I am assuming that by this stage, that the really wholesome, nutty, virtuous bars will not get a look in.)
  • Fruit stars/Fruit Strings etc – basically sweets but made from fruit juice, without additives. Worth realising that children assume they are being allowed to eat jelly/ chewy sweets, so that could have unexpected consequences in the future that you might have to deal with (like them assuming sweets were as healthy as Fruit Stars because they are so similar in texture and flavour).
  • Vegetable crisps, or those made for kids, with less salt. (High levels of salt poison young kidneys, and can set them up for big blood pressure related problems in later life) .
  • Homemade biscuits or cakes- high in sugar and fat but at least you know there won’t be hydrogenated vegetable oils and loads of preservatives in them. Plus if you make ones with oats you will help the energy to be released more slowly.
  • Breadsticks – plain ones are best (least amount of salt), and Polish shops do a great option here:  Paluszki (literally means ‘Little Fingers’), are skinny, about 10cm long sticks of biscuit, and you can buy them covered in lovely sesame seeds, or poppy seeds. Please avoid the ones covered in sea salt. And there must be 50 to a packet, so they will keep the munchkins munching for a while, without over filling them. Oatcakes are another savoury biscuit that seem to go down very well, and they often come packaged in five or six, which makes it easier to control how many your child eats.
  • Seeds (unsalted, goes without saying). Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are brilliant, packed full of lovely nutrients (proteins and oils- particularly high in Omega oils). And because they are small, they might take longer to eat. The toddlers might enjoy the fiddly nature of picking each tiny seed out of the bag. (I call them memory pills in my show for primary aged children). If you have moved on to sweet things by this stage, how about Sesame Snaps? Sesame seeds are very healthy, and Sesame Snaps rank highly on my list of treats, with no artificial additives at least.
  • Frubes or equivalent- freeze them, let them defrost and keep the perishable stuff cold as they defrost. Make them the ‘healthy’ desert after the sandwiches, before they crack open the ‘treats’ box..

One last word of advice: Make sure you have baby wipes with you. For their sticky hands and faces, and for the trip to the toilet that might be necessary after they eat a lot of lovely fibre in that lovely dried and fresh fruit and veg.


Hopefully at the Olympics you will be able to resist the enticing retro appeal of some well known brands by bringing your own drinks with you.. I am a not a food ‘fascist’. I let my kids eat most things in moderation. But I draw the line at certain fizzy drinks. They are allowed twice a year. They know that, they understand why and they accept it. My whole philosophy is that if you explain convincingly to children WHY you want them to eat or NOT eat something, they are much more likely to obey you. With accessible search engines at our fingertips nowadays, you can find a good explanation of the health benefits or disbenefits of any food or drink pretty quickly, so there is no excuse for ignorance anymore.

Photography: Smabs Sputzer @Flickr

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If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to The Olympics, here’s how to cope with snacking temptations.

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