Garden Fresh Snacks for Children

Vegetable Kebabs

If you planted a garden with your child earlier this year, she’s probably been eager to sample the results. Now is the season for fresh garden snacks with children.

Eat Foods Fresh and Raw

Fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the garden can be such an intense taste experience that they become lifelong memories. I remember very well trailing after my mother through our garden, tasting as we went. In particular, I always remember biting into a tomato. I don’t like tomatoes, and that is the only time in my young life that I remember voluntarily eating one. I just remember how incredibly good it felt to bite through the sun-warmed flesh of the tomato before the taste exploded through me. This one little fresh fruit (or vegetable, depending where you want to come down on that issue) is the anchor for all of my other childhood garden memories.

Now, without giving it much thought, we’ve put our mostly likely garden snack foods next to our main doors near our house. Because our herbs are next to the door we use most frequently, my children often stop to eat mint or fennel on their way inside. We have planted grapes by our front door, but they are only two years old and aren’t fruiting yet. I like to picture guests snacking on our grapes as they wait for us to answer the door.

Walk through your garden with your child and see what there is to sample and taste as a snack.

Choose Dark Vegetables for Micronutrients

We know dark, raw vegetables provide phytonutrients that help our bodies repair damage on a cellular level. For our smoothie series a while ago, we focused on the 5-7 color categories that fruits and vegetables can be divided into, each category rich in a particular set of phytonutrients.

Dark blue and purple foods can contain anthocyanins, which contain antioxidants that help protect cells from damage. From Sour Purple Blast Smoothie.

Carrots in particular are an incredible source of Vitamin A—or, rather, provitamin A carotenoids that can form Vitamin A. Alpha carotene is a cancer fighter, and beta carotene promotes repair of damaged DNA. You probably know that beta carotene will help your eyesight, which is related to this repair function. From Earth Orange Smoothie.

Green plants have chlorophylls, which play an important role in photosynthesis—capturing energy from sunlight and converting it into chemical energy. The phytonutrients in our smoothie included the carotenoid lutein, which works with zeaxanthin (both from raw spinach) for eye health. From Easy Green Smoothie.

As you are planting your garden then later strolling through for a snack, keep in mind that a variety of colors means an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.

Quick Vegetable Kebab Snack

It’s cooling down. My children have been requesting hot snacks and lunches, so it is time to put together simple, warm foods. They do like raw vegetables, but one of the ways we create variety straight from our garden is with quick grilled vegetable kebabs. My children love crunchy grilled vegetables, and it’s a great alternative to fried foods.

  • Garden vegetables – Use whatever you have in your garden, like zucchini, tomato, onion, sweet pepper, and summer (yellow) squash.
  • Oil, vinegar, and spices for marinade
  • Skewers – We use metal skewers because they are easiest to reuse.

Rather than buying anything special for this snack, it’s an adventure for a young child to go out into the garden and eat what he finds. Collect vegetables early in the morning, then prepare a marinade using oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and any herbs you collect. Cut up the vegetables into large, bite-sized pieces. Place the marinade and the vegetables in a container for 2-3 hours. Shake it around to be sure that the vegetables are coated.

When it is time for a late morning snack, help your child skewer just a few of each kind of vegetable. Vegetable kebabs are wonderful grilled, but we try to keep snacks simple since we’re only cooking a small amount of food. We broil until the zucchini starts to steam and brown because we like the texture of the crunchy crust outside and the hot, soft inside.

I love the idea of simple snacks from the garden because it makes such a profound connection for children. They help grow the food with their own hands. As they eat and enjoy the foods in simple ways—either raw or just cooked but still recognizable—they begin to realize how much power they have to care for their own bodies and their expanding world.

Image © Michael Zysman | Dreamstime.com

Cool Little Reusable Snack Containers

Itzy Ritzy snack bag in blue urban jungle

As I write, my son is preparing for his last big day out of the summer. He’s going hiking with friends. He’s filling his many-pocketed pants with all of the essentials: compass, magnifying glass, pen & paper, little bottle (“What for?” “For play!”), binoculars, and SNACKS! A lot of snacks. My son stuffs his pockets full of nuts and fruit and cracks and cheese and carrots and grapes when he goes out. His lunch is in his backpack, but that’s just not the same, he tells me.

Lunch is wrapped in a cloth napkin with sides in glass containers. Glass containers don’t work in the pockets, though. When a kid is taking a snack in a pocket, he needs a reusable snack container that won’t add weight or bulk on his adventures. Zippered cloth bags are a perfect solution for young adventures’ snacks.


Itzy Ritzy Reusable Snack Bags

Children with Itzy Ritzy Reusable Snack bags

Our Itzy Ritzy reusable snack bags have been flying out the door. I know this is partly because they are just so cute, but parents also appreciate that they will no longer have to buy plastic baggies.

Itzy Ritzy bags are sandwich sized (7″ x 7″), though, and sometimes that’s just more than necessary for a small snack. The KangaSac reusable snack bags are half the size of the Itzy Ritzy reusable bags.

Colorful prints make Itzy Ritzy bags stand out.


KangaSac Reusable Snack Bags

KangaSac Snack Bags

If a 7″ x 7″ bag is just too big for your child’s snacks, KangaSac has smaller, 7″ x 4″, zippered bags that can fit a lot of snacks. The bright colored fabrics of KangaSac reusable bags are smooth enough that they take permanent marker very well, which means your child can personalize them. For my expressive children, drawing all over their stuff holds great appeal.


Protection for Soft Snacks

One of my concerns with snack bags is that they go into my son’s pockets and get squished. For softer, more delicate foods that you want to protect from getting smashed, it helped to have a snack container with a little more structure.

There are a couple of options for snack containers that will keep soft foods safe.


Kinderville Little Bites Silicone Snack Jars

Kinderville Jars Mini

Kinderville Little Bites mini jars are a perfect size for snacks. They are made from 100% silicone, which makes them a little soft, but they offer more protection than zippered cloth bags. Small Little Bites jars hold just less than ½ cup.


To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Sidekick

ToGo Ware mini sidekick

For snacks that need the most protection, try the To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Mini Sidekick, which goes with the To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Food Carrier. The Sidekick holds about ½ cup.

My young adventurer has his pockets full of equipment and snacks, and I feel confident that while he is on his hike today he will be well fed and won’t be leaving any garbage behind.

Organic Snacks for Children

Child eating celery

Most parents have a general sense that it’s a good idea to feed children organic food, but buying certified organic foods can be expensive. If you have to make choices, make sure you know when and where it is most important to buy organic food for your children’s snacks.

What snacks are you most likely to give children? Celery sticks? Peaches or apples? A few strawberries? These are the four foods most likely to have pesticide residues. All of us need to think carefully about even the smallest snacks we serve our children.


Consequences of Pesticides

There is not a lot of direct evidence linking pesticides in foods with health effects in children. The evidence is building up, but the food industry “has confused an absence of data with proof of safety” (EWG) and they will continue to do so until more studies show links between pesticide exposure and children’s health issues.

A May 2010 Harvard study linked ADHD and developmental disorders to organophosphates. Use of these neurotoxic pesticides has been reduced in the past 10 years, but exposures can still be traced in older children. “Evidence that everyday exposure to organophosphates may cause permanent effects on children’s brain and behavior is a sobering reminder of the need to safeguard children from harmful chemicals in their diets,” writes the EWG in their “Top Reasons to Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Reduce Your Pesticide Exposure.”

As more studies link children’s health problems in particular with pesticides, more pesticides will be restricted.


Pesticides in Produce

U.S. Department of Agriculture tests show that 70% of foods have residues from one or more pesticides (EWG via USDA). Studies show these pesticides in humans, which is a clear and obvious connection to make when we eat conventional foods covered in pesticides.

A study showed that children who eat conventional produce have concentrations of pesticides in their blood six times higher than children who eat organic produce. Eating organic matters for everyone, but it matters most of all for children.


Top Most Important Snacks You Should Buy Organic

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a Shopper’s Guide that lists The Clean Fifteen vegetables least likely to have pesticides and The Dirty Dozen foods most likely to have pesticides. I have their wallet card stuck to my refrigerator so I will remember to always buy organic celery and peaches above all other produce with strawberries and apples close behind. Even better, tie a copy of the wallet card to your reusable grocery bags like EWG shows on their website, and you will always remember when you are in the store what you should look out for.

EWG finds that we can lower our exposures by 80% by just eating more of the less contaminated foods and less of the most contaminated foods (EWG, “Methodology”).

Looking at the list of fruits and vegetables, those below are among the most likely snacks for my children and the most and least likely to have pesticide residues.

Definitely Buy Organic
From the EWG list, starting with the most likely to have pesticide residues.

Celery
Peaches
Apples
Strawberries
Blueberries
Nectarines
Cherries
Potatoes
Grapes (imported)
Blueberries
Carrots

Less Likely to Find Pesticide Residues
Starting with the least likely.

Avocado
Pineapple
Mango
Kiwi
Cantaloupe
Watermelon
Grapefruit
Plums
Cranberries

Do you need to buy certified organic?

If you have the option to buy local, non-certified organic foods that have not been treated with pesticides, that is the best option. Many very small farmers don’t opt for certification for various reasons. The certification itself is not the point. Look for foods that have not been treated with pesticides. Get to know your farmer, and start a conversation about health, pesticides, and children.

Image © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com

Garden Fresh Snacks for Children

Vegetable Kebabs

If you planted a garden with your child earlier this year, she’s probably been eager to sample the results. Now is the season for fresh garden snacks with children.


Eat It Fresh and Raw

Fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the garden can be such an intense taste experience that they become lifelong memories. I remember very well trailing after my mother through our garden, tasting as we went. In particular, I always remember biting into a tomato. I don’t like tomatoes, and that is the only time in my young life that I remember voluntarily eating one. I just remember how incredibly good it felt to bite through the sun-warmed flesh of the tomato before the taste exploded through me. This one little fresh fruit (or vegetable, depending where you want to come down on that issue) is the anchor for all of my other childhood garden memories.

Now, without giving it much thought, we’ve put our mostly likely garden snack foods next to our main doors near our house. Because our herbs are next to the door we use most frequently, my children often stop to eat mint or fennel on their way inside. We have planted grapes by our front door, but they are only two years old and aren’t fruiting yet. I like to picture guests snacking on our grapes as they wait for us to answer the door.

Walk through your garden with your child and see what there is to sample and taste as a snack.


Choose Dark Vegetables for Micronutrients

We know dark, raw vegetables provide phytonutrients that help our bodies repair damage on a cellular level. For our smoothie series a year ago, we focused on the 5-7 color categories that fruits and vegetables can be divided into, each category rich in a particular set of phytonutrients.

Dark blue and purple foods can contain anthocyanins, which contain antioxidants that help protect cells from damage. From Sour Purple Blast Smoothie.

Carrots in particular are an incredible source of Vitamin A—or, rather, provitamin A carotenoids that can form Vitamin A. Alpha carotene is a cancer fighter, and beta carotene promotes repair of damaged DNA. You probably know that beta carotene will help your eyesight, which is related to this repair function. From Earth Orange Smoothie.

Green plants have chlorophylls, which play an important role in photosynthesis—capturing energy from sunlight and converting it into chemical energy. The phytonutrients in our smoothie included the carotenoid lutein, which works with zeaxanthin (both from raw spinach) for eye health. From Easy Green Smoothie.

As you are planting your garden then later strolling through for a snack, keep in mind that a variety of colors means an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.


Quick Vegetable Kebab Snack

It’s cooling down. My children have been requesting hot snacks and lunches, so it is time to put together simple, warm foods. They do like raw vegetables, but one of the ways we create variety straight from our garden is with quick grilled vegetable kebabs. My children love crunchy grilled vegetables, and it’s a great alternative to fried foods.

  • Garden vegetables – Use whatever you have in your garden, like zucchini, tomato, onion, sweet pepper, and summer (yellow) squash.
  • Oil, vinegar, and spices for marinade
  • Skewers – We use metal skewers because they are easiest to reuse.

Rather than buying anything special for this snack, it’s an adventure for a young child to go out into the garden and eat what he finds. Collect vegetables early in the morning, then prepare a marinade using oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and any herbs you collect. Cut up the vegetables into large, bite-sized pieces. Place the marinade and the vegetables in a container for 2-3 hours. Shake it around to be sure that the vegetables are coated.

When it is time for a late morning snack, help your child skewer just a few of each kind of vegetable. Vegetable kebabs are wonderful grilled, but we try to keep snacks simple since we’re only cooking a small amount of food. We broil until the zucchini starts to steam and brown because we like the texture of the crunchy crust outside and the hot, soft inside.

I love the idea of simple snacks from the garden because it makes such a profound connection for children. They help grow the food with their own hands. As they eat and enjoy the foods in simple ways—either raw or just cooked but still recognizable—they begin to realize how much power they have to care for their own bodies and their expanding world.

Image © Michael Zysman | Dreamstime.com

Sweet Beet Smoothie

Sweet pink smoothieA few days ago, my children declared a smoothie I made them The Sweet Beet Smoothie. They said it looked like Valentine’s Day. I had been planning to make and write about a chocolate smoothie, but scrapped that idea after reading so much about fair trade chocolate last week. I don’t have fair trade chocolate powder, and we have banned non-fair-trade chocolate from our house.

My children saved me with their declaration. We recreated the Sweet Beet smoothie for you today.
The combination of beets and yogurt makes a shocking pink. We use bananas as our base, so it is still quite sweet.

½ medium red beet
1 banana
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup soy milk
1 cup ice cubes

Buzz for about 15 seconds in a blender. Takes 5 minutes tops to make, pour, and clean up.

Makes large smoothies for 3 people.