How to make snacks fun and healthy and easy for your kids’ tiffin box? We are talking about the mid-morning (10-11 am) snack that you pack for them for school. Of course, if your school provides snacks then you are off the hook for this one. But these snacks can also be great for snack time at home as well.
It can be quite a challenge to keep snacks fun so that they gobble it up and you can be one satisfied mum seeing their empty tiffn box, to keep the variety going, make it easy for you and of course ensure that it is healthy for them as well—fun, easy and healthy! Yes, all packed in one tiffin box.
We asked Mili Jalan, a dietician in Bangalore and a mom to an active 8 year old for some guidelines and ideas.
Some broad guidelines
- Typically give them a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates and foods with natural sugar (example, fruits). Basically give foods that are nutritious, that give energy to keep these energizer bunnies going and foods that they can digest fast in time for a hearty lunch. For example, cheese sandwich and some fruit or carrot or cucumber sticks, mini idlis with carrot sticks, biscuits with some nuts and fruit.
- Get them to have a variety of grains for optimal and balanced nutrition. Wheat and rice are common but try other grain items as well – ragi flour in dosas or parathas, oat biscuits etc.
- The staple snack should be healthy but some harmless junk food once in a while can keep the variety and fun going and prevent boredom in food. So treats like Kurkure, Maggi noodles, potato chips once in a while as a special treat are fine if they really make your little ones happy.
Now some ideas
Modern Indian parents have a wide variety to choose from - from the vast diversity of Indian foods to western staples like pasta etc. Some are novel and some are twists to everyday items.
- Mini idlis
- Get the mini idli mould for these cute idlis. You could add some boiled vegetable puree (carrots, spinach, coriander) etc. for color, variety and nutrition as well from time to time.
- Corn on the cob
- Either boil the corn or roast it and pop it in their tiffin box.
- Sheesh kebabs (veg and non veg)
- Get long skewers. You can take either raw vegetables or sauté them lightly. Take pieces of red or green capsicum, pieces of tofu or paneer or meat, tomatoes, steamed carrots and make vegetarian sheesh kebabs. Add zing in your child’s tiffin box. Next you will be hearing other moms asking for the details. If you cannot get skewers, then just take toothpicks and use those.
- Good old bread - sandwiches etc.
- Add layers and make a small club sandwich. For example, alternate with cheese and ketchup or mint chutney and butter. Try different combinations.
- Sandwiches with different ingredients: peanut butter sandwiches with nutella chocolate sauce etc. Be creative.
- Cut the sandwiches into different shapes with cookie cutters.
- French toast (bread pan fried with a little egg on it) is also an easy alternative to sandwiches.
- Make sure the bread is whole wheat or whole grain bread.
- Keep the mundane interesting. Experiment with different shapes - square or triangles. Add jam in it and roll it up. What about pureeing last night’s daal and vegetable and fortifying the paratha dough with it?
- Boiled chickpeas (white channa) or boiled kidney beans (rajma)
- Full of protein, iron and fibre.
- You could even save some of these beans from last night’s dinner so that you do not have to boil in the morning.
- Add zing by making a channa chaat. Add lemon juice, chaat masala and minced tomatoes and onions - Easy, ‘chatpata’ and healthy.
- Pasta with tomato sauce. You could make the sauce the night or day before and keep in the fridge.
- Kids love plain boiled pasta with grated cheese as well.
- Stuff with hot sandwich maker
- Make some hot sandwiches. Be creative with ingredients. You could add paneer, tomtatoes/onions/cheese and even jazz up last night’s dry subji with a little minced onions and tomatoes for crunchiness and top off with grated cheese.
- If you have a sandwich maker that has only ridges and any shapes of slices can fit, then try using chapattis or parathas as well. Take chapattis and add some vegetable curry, minced onions and grated cheese, roll them up and put in the sandwich makers and voila you will have a hot chapatti sandwich. Call it something exotic like roti burritos (Mexican dish) and you have them all excited about this snack.
- Make dosas fun. Make a few mini dosas. Add ragi flour for added nutrition and make ragi dosa.
- Non perishables like nuts, biscuits etc.
- Keep a handy stock of healthy packaged food for times when you do not have time to whip up something fresh.
- Nuts and dried fruit can be handy for popping in their box - peanuts, almonds, cashewnuts, walnuts, raisins etc. Very nutritious as well.
- Take the mundane peanuts and make peanut chaat (peanuts, chaat masala, lemon juice, minced onions, green corinder).
- Keep different whole grain biscuits stocked at home. Recently Britannia has many different varieties of whole grain biscuits. Get different grains like oats etc. from time to time. Anzac is a new brand of oatmeal biscuits.
- Get different packaged cereals from time to time - chocos, muesli, wheat flakes etc. There is a wide variety available in the market these days.
- Other savouries like microwave popcorn, banana chips, namkeens etc.
Some other tips and tricks
- If they are being fussy, you could add a little note in their tiffin box. A yellow post-it note with a smilie with love from mama will surely get them all excited as they open their box.
- Do not overload the tiffin box. Find out how long their snack break is. Get them in the habit of finishing or almost finishing and not wasting food.
- Get a dual compartment tiffin box so that the dry stuff does not get soggy with the damp foods like fruits.
- Have a rough plan of the snack schedule so that you can ensure the ingredients and make sure that you are not running helter skelter at the last minute. Plan the snack the night before.
- If you are really busy (working or rushed in the mornings), you could have a schedule for each week. Stick it on the fridge. For example, mini idlis for Monday, paratha for Tuesday and so on. Of course, be spontaneous, your child might ask for something different, but having a plan will prevent you from racking your brain when you are really busy. And if you have a maid, then you do not have to brief every time, only when there is a change to the schedule.
- The quantity would depend on how substantial their breakfast is and their lunch timing. But ensure that they have enough to keep them going but not too much that it interferes with their lunch. And of course, if they have a heavy snack, then adjust lunch accordingly.
- Keep it simple. The snack does not have to be complex. Even some everyday ingredients can be used for snack. For example, boiled white gram or chickpeas or channa or a variation with these (chickpea salad or chickpea chaat).
- Ask your kids for ideas and what their classmates get.
Of course these is not a comprehensive list and there are many others. Share your family’s favourite snack ideas with us...