June 21st, 2013

Finding Healthy Snacks For The Small Set At Markets Big And Small

Most kids love snacking — but parents and their children don’t always agree on what makes a suitable nibble. Sure, colorful cartoon packaging may draw a wee one’s eye, but those packages often hide high levels of sugar or sodium inside. Luckily, there’s a growing selection of parent-friendly snack options on the market. WholeFoods, Wegmans and MOM’s Organic have saturated the Washington, D.C., region with healthful, often organic snack choices. Many options are also gluten-free.

But while there may be more healthy snacks options available, that doesn’t mean finding them is easy. Not everyone lives near a gourmet food store or has the ample cash flow required to buy to one’s heart’s desire. So I decided to do a little comparison shopping, visiting MOM’s Organic and a Safeway in Rockville, Md., to see if both stores had similar snacks appropriate for little ones.

I’ve also compiled a list of shopping strategies and easy-to-prepare snacks to make shopping and muching with your munchkins a bit easier.

MOM’s Organic

When D.C.-area denizens think health-conscious and kid friendly, many think of MOM’s Organic. Many consider the local grocery chain the embodiment of what’s good and socially conscious. The store really cares about consumers’ eating habits and sell what I consider high-quality brands. Signs plastered all around the store note that all kids’ foods sold here have no artificial flavoring, preservatives or corn syrup. The majority of their produce is organic.

One general manager told me the store avoids selling products with ingredients like bleached flour since they may have an unhealthy effect on children. And in January, MOM’s jettisoned products labeled with cartoon characters, worried that such packaging may sway often-impressionable kids toward unhealthier eating habits. Here’s a laudable list of snack products sold at MOM’s that many kids would love:

Smart Prepared Snack Choices

  1. Rabbits Bunny Bar
  2. Annie’s Organic Peanuttly Granola
  3. Plum Kids Organic Bars
  4. Earth’s Best Organic Greek Yogurt Smoothie
  5. Ella’s Kitchen Juices
  6. Level Two Tiny Fruits (Fruit snacks geared toward toddlers)
  7. Soy Pudding from ZenSoy
  8. R.W. Knudson juices

Plus many more items — you’re sure to find something that strikes your kids’ fancy.

Safeway

Safeway, of course, is a far larger grocery chain. They’re dotted around most urban areas and are often within walking distance in most neighborhoods, making them accessible to more shoppers than niche markets like MOM’s.

Many people may not realize that there are lots of organic food and healthful options here if you look hard enough. Safeway has an organic food line teeming with over 300 products ranging from juices to soups, and carry many other organic brands, as well — many of which offer kid-friendly snacks like whole-grain chips and applesauce. If you want to give your kids cut-up fresh fruit, sans pesticides and other chemicals, make sure you stop by Safeway’s organic produce section. Safeway has a large selection of veggies and fruits to choose from, and while it’s often slightly more expensive than conventional produce, you can find good bargains.

Finding those more wholesome offerings does require a bit more effort. You have to get the kids to bypass the sugary cereals, drinks and high-sodium snacks decked out with Disney princesses or Marvel superheroes packaging.  Many of these products are stocked right at eye level for inquisitive kids. Parents also have to plan to read ingredients lists and the label’s nutritional information.

Smart Prepared Snack Choices

  1. Honest Kids Juice (The same people behind Honest tea)
  2. Apple & Eve Organic Juices
  3. Barbara’s Snackmeals
  4. Whole Grain Mac ‘n Cheese
  5. Organic Soup
  6. Belvita Cookies
  7. Annie’s homegrown Shells & White Cheddar
  8. Plum Kids Organic Fruit Straws

Plus many more items…

Shopping Strategies

While you can find healthy snacks for your munchkins at both niche and large-chain markets, it doesn’t hurt to review some tried-and-true shopping strategies to avoid wasting dollars on unnecessary food items. WebMD developed a comprehensive list on shopping smart that’s worth a look “10 Ways to Save Money on Food Shopping”, and here are a few selected tips:

  1. Plan ahead. When you prepare in advance, you not only save money but you also (hopefully!) ensure your children eat foods that will stimulate their growth and health. Plan your weekly meals before you pick out snack options. Make a list and, clip coupons and look in newspaper inserts or online for what’s on sale that week.
  2. Coupons and Sales.  Stock up on sale items you know your kids enjoy. Remember you can also stick foods in your freezer to prolong their shelf life.
  3. But … Be Wary of Marketing Ploys. Buy-one-get-one-free is not always your best friend. If you’re buying products your kids don’t particularly like just because they’re on sale, you may end up spending more on products that may go to waste.

Quick-Prep Fresh Foods

Making your own healthier snacks for kids can be fun, particularly if the wee ones can participate in making them. I’ve compiled a list of snacks from Snack Pix.com that are simple to make and contain ingredients  that are easy to find at your local Safeway, Food Lion or other grocery. (And don’t forget even chains like Safeway have lots of organic produce to choose from!)

  1. Spicy Broccoli Spread. It’s like pesto for kids.
  2. Vegetable Pita Pizza. You really can’t go wrong with (modified) pizza, especially if it has fresh veggies on top of a pita bread.
  3. Crunchy Caramel Apples. Sprinkle crumbled graham crackers on top of poached apples. It’s a clever and less-sugary spin on a traditional treat.
  4. Fruit Pecan Snack Mix. By mixing cereal with dried fruits and an apple spice blend, you will craft a delectable treat that may entice your kids toward more wholesome snacks.
  5. Multi-grain Crackers with White Bean Spread. Lemon juice and fresh dill revitalize this tasty snack.

You can find more good options can be found at Snack Pix website. Enjoy, and let us know what your kids’ favorite nibbles are!

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Posted in Dear Diary
2 comments on “Finding Healthy Snacks For The Small Set At Markets Big And Small
  1. Amanda says:

    We don’t have a Safeway or a MOM’s near us, but some of your great suggestions are at many other stores, like Harris Teeter. Some HTs even have a healthy/natural foods section, which makes snack and frozen meal shopping even easier. I have a couple other great snack suggestions: Justin’s Nut Butter squeeze packs (they have these at The Fresh Market, Wegmans & Target) and fruit pouches (like Plum Organic, Ella’s Kitchen, Earth’s Best). These seem to have exploded since my daughter was born, and they’re sold almost everywhere now. They’re often in the baby food section, but they’re great for all ages and now come in so many varieties – many organic. I even like to mix a fruit pouch in with my oatmeal or yogurt.

  2. Sarah says:

    Great suggestions, Amanda! Even as an adult, I am always in search of healthier snack options. The nut butter and fruit pouches are great to stash in purses, diaper bags, strollers, even your desk at work! Good for kids of all ages…including boyfriends/husbands. No one wants a cranky one around.

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