“I’m huuuuuuuuuungry” truly might just be the phrase spoken most often by children in the history of mankind. Seriously. I feel like I hear it constantly from my own daughter (like, 45 minutes after finishing a meal, too) and definitely my students.
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In all fairness, more often than not, the kiddos probably are hungry.
I know its totally baffling (and a bit infuriating) to hear those words a half hour after you have just finished clearing the breakfast dishes, but children’s bodies are constantly growing and changing. All that growing, learning and healing (from scraped elbows, bruised knees, and who knows what else) does make those little bodies burn through food a bit faster at times than we adults anticipate. Thus, why we hear “I’m huuuuuuuuuungry” on repeat during certain seasons of childhood.
I, for one, am super passionate about teaching children how to listen to those hunger cues and independently make health food choices (See Raising Mindful Eaters). It is truly a skill to be able to tell the difference between you body saying “I’m hungry and need more fuel” and “I’m bored and chewing on something sounds like a great way to kill 5 minutes.” I know it is something I and many other adults struggle with on a daily basis and believe in fostering this skill in childhood.
So, with that in mind, I created a Healthy “Help Yourself” Snack Basket for my daughter.
I really can’t take credit for this wonderful idea. I first saw the concept of a “Help Yourself” snack basket when I was touring charter schools to send my daughter to for kindergarten.
At one school, I noticed each classroom had a small table with two chairs and a basket of different healthy snacks. Children seemed to come and go as they pleased, selecting a nourishing snack, eating it and then returning to their work. Intrigued, I asked the teacher what that station was all about.
“Oh, that’s our snack station. We like to encourage children to listen to their own body cues and be independant in their eating habits. They are allowed to go up to the station when they are hungry and select a healthy snack. We find that the empowerment encourages a postive relationship with healthy foods and helps children to focus better since they can eat when they are hungry.”
That school was totally speaking my language! What a totally wonderful way of empowering children to eat healthy foods and recognize when they are hungry and need a little snack! And they were learning to fuel their bodies on various healthy foods instead of filling up on junk food.
I was so in love with the idea that a Healthy “Help Yourself” Snack Basket was something that I created in our own home for our young daughter. She is dazzled by the idea of being able to go and grab a snack when she feels hungry and I love that she is becoming more and more independent in her healthy eating habits.
Possible Ground Rules for Healthy “Help Yourself” Snack Basket.
Just like any new privilege given to a child, the Help Yourself Snack Basket may require a few ground rules at first. Here are a few that you might want to consider.
Snack basket is closed 1 hour before a meal.
I am a big believer that hunger is a big driving force in helping children be open to trying new, healthy foods. If you child is a big snacker or maybe shies away from new foods, consider closing the Help Yourself Snack Basket an hour or so before a meal. That way, he/she will be hungry enough to eat whatever you are serving up!
Only putting out a day’s worth of snacks at a time.
My daughter was totally in love with her new-found food power with the snack basket. So dazzled, in fact, that she wanted to eat all the things in it….on the first day! So, until the honeymoon period of having the Healthy Yourself Snack Basket wore off, I only put out a day’s worth of snacks for her to pick from. Once that food was gone, snacks were off the table for the rest of the day. It didn’t take long for the novelty of the snack basket to wear off and her not to go grazing constantly. Now I am able to stock the basket for the week and know that she is able to go to it only when she really needs it.
All the snacks in the snack basket need to be eaten before basket is restocked.
Like I said before, I am a big believer in hunger as a motivator for children trying new foods. So, if your child has eaten all of their favorite snacks out of the basket and is only left with the things they they have been iffy about trying in the past, then this rule might be the push they need to take a bite of radish or rice cake. Of course, it could go the total opposite direction and your kiddo could go back to the “but I’m huuuuuuuunnngry” nagging until you restock the basket with his/her preferred healthy snacks. So, this is one rule you might love or it might be a rule you might opt to pass on all together. Whether this rule is needed varies from family to family, so I leave that judgement in your hands.
To make your Healthy “Help Yourself” Snack Basket, you will need….
- a medium or large basket or container to hold all you snacks.
- reusable containers that your child can easily open and close. I like to use small jelly jars for my 5-year-old’s snacks, but if you prefer to skip the glass, you can use stainless steel containers or reusable silicone bags
- utensils and/or cloth napkins (for if you plan to include messier snacks like veggies and nut butter)
Now, what do you fill the snack basket with?
Okay, so you have your containers in hand and you are all geared up to create your Help Yourself Snack Basket for your kiddos! But….um….what the heck do you put in it? Well, that depends on a you want to store it! If you prefer your child not to go wondering through the fridge or you simply don’t have the space, here are some healthy non-refrigerated snack basket ideas for you.
Foods for non-refrigerated snack baskets
- date & nut bars
- Paleovalley beef sticks (these are the only beef sticks that I have found that are not only super clean and made with awesome ingredients, but that my daughter loves. They are also a great source of quick protein to help fuel your kiddo onto the next meal. Enter the Promo Code “nurture” for 30% OFF your entire order from now until November 1, 2017).
- stone fruits (plums, nectarines, cherries (though be careful, as these do tend to go bad quickly in warm weather))
- dried fruit
- dried seaweed
- homemade granola or trail mix (try my 30 Minute Grain-Free Granola)
- rice cakes
Of course, if you can make room in your fridge for a snack basket and/or you feel like your kiddo won’t get distracted by the other items in the fridge, here are some awesomely healthy chilled snack basket ideas!
Foods for refrigerated snack baskets
- hard boiled eggs
- sliced bell pepper and/or cucumber with dip
- carrot and/or celery sticks with nut butter
- raw “bites” (I like to make these Carrot Cake Batter Bites or Nut-Free Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites)
- fresh berries
- raw trimmed green beans, snow peas or sugar snap peas
- a halved avocado (store in a tight-fitting air-tight container and it should stay fresh for a day or two in the fridge (these are the bags I use))
- cherry or grape tomatoes
- healthy muffins (Try Flourless Peanut Butter Muffins or Oatmeal Green Smoothie Muffins)
Creating your own Healthy “Help Yourself” Snack Basket for your kids is a wonderful step in helping foster healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Your children will feel empowered by the independence and choice you are giving to them….and you can relax knowing they are learning to snack on healthy foods.
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