Archive for the ‘ Snacking ’ Category

Packaged Pumpkin Snacks and Treats Kids Will Love

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

This is a guest post by Karen Cicero, Parents’ Contributing Food Editor

Grown-ups love their pumpkin spice lattes, why not let kids in on the fun?

Packaged Pumpkin Snacks and Treats Kids Will LoveA couple of weeks ago, I sent out a Facebook blast to a bunch of my friends asking if their kids enjoyed the flavor of pumpkin. I was surprised to find out that most their children have never tried it, even in pie! Well, I had to fix that because pumpkin adds a wonderful natural sweetness to foods plus extra vitamin A.

Instead of pumpkin pie or even muffins, I wanted to see if they’d like the plethora of pumpkin-flavored products that spouted up in the supermarket this month. So I invited moms and their pumpkin-deprived kids to the park for after-school snacks, which also included maple products and healthier Halloween treats. I kept it informal; kids could try whatever they wanted then they could come back for more in between races down the slide or a round on the swings. By the end of pumpkin playdate, even the picky eaters tasted a lot of foods because they saw friends digging in and there was no pressure. What did they fall for? Plenty—check out their top pumpkin picks plus maple and Halloween faves.

Pumpkin Yogurt: I set out two brands, Noosa (which is a Target exclusive) and Chobani. The kids dug both. Noosa, the milder of the two, comes in an 8-ounce tub so it’s best to split between two kids or share with your child (a lot of moms at the playdate did this) or you could scoop out half and save the rest for the next day. Chobani’s Pumpkin Spice flavor is a little stronger presumably because it contains more pumpkin (it has 35 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin A in 5.3 ounces while Noosa has 8 percent of the Daily Value in 8 ounces.)

Food Should Taste Good Harvest Pumpkin Chips These all-natural tortilla chips are made with pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, boosting their vitamin A to 15 percent of the Daily Value in one ounce, about 12 chips. Moms were surprised that their kids liked these because the packaging and spices seem more grown-up, but I watched kids take these by the handful. We actually ran out!

Nature’s Bakery Pumpkin Spice Fig Bar My 12-year-old daughter is no stranger to pumpkin—I made her pumpkin baby food way back when before Sprout, Plum Organics, and Earth’s Best had packaged versions—and these mini whole-grain bars were one of her favorite items. A limited edition, they come in a bag of 48 with other flavors so they’re perfect for trick or treaters. You can find them everywhere from Whole Foods to Walmart.

Way Better Punkin Cranberry Tortilla Chips “A unique, fun flavor,” was how one 11-year-old described these chips, which are made with quinoa, corn, raspberry, cranberry, and, of course, pumpkin. Kids crunched and munched until the bowl was empty.

Want to make homemade pumpkin treats? Check out our favorite pumpkin and squash recipes.

barkThins Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seeds Any product that describes itself as “snacking chocolate” deserves to be tested. And it didn’t disappoint: Thin pieces of dark chocolate were stuffed with crunchy pumpkin seeds. The kids who got to try this liked it for sure, but, honestly, the moms didn’t want to share.

Packaged Pumpkin Snacks and Treats Kids Will Love

365 Everyday Value Maple Gingerbread Sandwich Creme Cookies A Whole Foods exclusive, these 75-calorie sandwich cookies have a pretty strong maple flavor. But that didn’t stop the kids. One little guy described them as “pancake cookies.” Too cute!

Boom Chicka Pop Organic Maple Sea Salt Popcorn We actually got a sneak peek at this flavor, hitting shelves in early 2015. It will be worth the wait. In the meantime, try another flavor like Sea Salt or White Cheddar.

Annie’s Homegrown Halloween Bunny Graham Packs The company’s whole-grain chocolate and honey crackers are paired together in mini packages perfect for Trick or Treaters. Kids loved that they were Halloween colors—the honey flavor looks orange thanks to a little annatto extract. Each box contains 24 packs.

Surf Sweets If you’re looking for colorful, dye-free Halloween candy that’s made in a nut-free facility, it actually exists! The company’s “Spooky Spiders,” gummy-like candy, were a huge hit as were treat packs of organic fruity bears.

One final tip: When you’re shopping for pumpkin or maple-flavored foods, be sure to look at the ingredients’ lists. Some products I ran across didn’t contain any actual pumpkin or maple syrup or had artificial food dyes to change their color. And that’s a little scary.

How to Make Pumpkin People
How to Make Pumpkin People
How to Make Pumpkin People

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Alison Sweeney’s Advice for Pleasing a Picky Eater

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

This is a guest post by Brooke Bunce

Actress, reality TV host, writer, and director are just a few of the roles Alison Sweeney has on her extensive resume. Add mom of two, cook, and US Highbush Blueberry Council brand ambassador to the list and that definitely constitutes a packed schedule.

That said, Alison knows better than anyone how to make healthy eating a part of her busy day. She and her husband David were able to get nutritious meals on the table for Megan, 5, and Ben, 9, without too much of a fuss—that is, until Ben decided he didn’t want what his parents were preparing for him. Instead of discipline, Alison took another route.

“I challenged him to get an appreciation for how hard it is to make a dinner. He ended up preparing dinner the next night—and it was delicious! He did such a good job,” she says.

Now, both Ben and Megan play an active role in dinner prep at the Sweeney household, though it isn’t always easy to achieve culinary harmony. Fortunately for the rest of us, Alison recently shared a few of her tricks for those times when your kid’s taste buds just won’t budge.

Plan Ahead

On trips to the grocery store, Alison and her husband pick out tons of fresh fruits and veggies to keep on-hand at all times. Then, they take it one step further: “If you have fruit at home and set it in a bowl at the front of the fridge, washed and ready, it looks delicious and it’s ready to go,” she says. “Every time I put a bowl of blueberries or grapes in the fridge, they’re gone instantly.” With produce at the ready, it’s easier to keep kids away from convenience foods like bagged potato chips.

Give it a New Angle

If your kids aren’t enthusiastic about a certain food the first time they try it, don’t give up completely. Alison tries different cooking methods when reintroducing foods that her kids didn’t like initially. Or, she finds a new way to dress up ordinary produce, such as coating matchsticks of veggies in cornmeal for a healthy spin on French fries.

Assign Everyone a Job

When cooking becomes an integral part of family time, it encourages participation in the kitchen and trying new foods, Alison says. Reimagine meal prep as a positive outlet for little ones’ energy; assign simple tasks to the kiddos while adults handle the more complex duties. “If we can change the attitude [around cooking], it can be really fun,” Alison says.

Get Kids Invested

Including kids in every step of the process—from gathering fresh produce to sprinkling in seasonings—gives them ownership over their food, which makes them more willing to eat it. “We had a tomato plant in our backyard when Ben was little and he would pluck tomatoes right off the vine and eat them like apples, “ Alison says. Ben also helped collect fresh herbs for dinner, too.  “When they feel like it’s their dish, then they really love eating it.”

Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating

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Stop Feeding My Kids Sugar

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Kids and sugar

This is a guest post by David Teten, father of three and partner with ff Venture Capital, an early-stage technology investor in New York City. David blogs at

The world rains sugar on my children. The bus driver offers my child bubble gum. The teachers give cupcakes at every birthday party. The school vending machine is full of junk food; so is the one at the YMCA. At camp, the counselors offer candy and an ice pop at the end of the day. Our kids are invited to birthday parties which include a cake, a candy piñata, and then a goodie bag bursting with still more more candy.

Why are people incessantly feeding my kids sugar? 

Most parents want their children to be energetic, happy, and healthy. However, I see an amazing number of adults who are doing the opposite: hurting the health of their kids by offering an alarming amount of processed sugar on a regular—if not daily—basis.

It’s been proven that obesity is a problem in our country; two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or obese, and one-third of all children are overweight or obese. But for some reason, most of the adults I see do not take the logical next step of changing the way they feed their children.

In my opinion, these are the major reasons why adults put this known health hazard in front of children:

1) It’s tradition to bring cakes and other sweets to school to celebrate special events.

Fifty years ago, almost any business or social event would include cigarettes, often offered as a party favor. Now, most educated people would be shocked to see people smoking at an event with children in the room. Similarly, I predict that 20 years from now, we’ll look back in astonishment at the amount of sugar that we unthinkingly fed our children. Tradition is not something we’re locked into.

2) We only serve treats “occasionally” at “special events.”

In a class of 20 kids with 20 birthdays, plus various holidays and other special events, virtually every school week includes a reason for a party. There are many other ways to celebrate, such as making a craft or doing something active. Feeding sweets to children is an example of the tragedy of the commons. Schools, synagogues, churches, party organizers, sports teams, meal hosts—all provide occasional treats to make kids happy. These accumulate into constant exposure. Ultimately, it’s our children who pay the price.

3) Treats attract children and make them happy.

There is endless academic research showing that when people or children perform a task for a reward, they lose interest when that reward disappears. By giving kids candy at school, you’re not teaching love of learning; you’re teaching love of candy.

4) It’s the parents’ responsibility to train the kids to make the right food choices.

Only someone with perfectly obedient children could make this argument. We don’t have any perfectly obedient children, and neither do our friends. Children are bad at understanding long-term consequences and don’t have all the facts they need. We send them to school and raise them to help develop these skills.

5) It’s too expensive to serve healthy food.

To quote: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Serving kids processed sugar now is cheap, but creates very significant long-term costs in treating obesity and diabetes. I’ve written elsewhere on low-cost ways to create a healthy office or school environment; also see Parsely’s “Startup Diet.” Many parents, including me, will gladly pay a premium to feed our children real food.

6) It’s too difficult to reduce the amount of sugar that we serve.

Many schools are strictly and successfully nut-free, even though nuts are dangerous to just a small number of kids. Sugar is dangerous to all kids, so why can’t schools succeed in reducing sugar? Many schools that have tried to move to a healthier diet face protests from children acclimated to eating sugar with every dish at home. It’s frustrating that this dilemma exists, but it shouldn’t mean that we throw up our hands and do nothing. Instead, we should focus on educating children and adults about healthy habits, and incorporate whole foods steadily into school programs.

Our schools and camps are places of education. But education is not just books; education is also nutrition and healthy living. I am not advocating forcing kids to eat things they are going to hate, but merely providing them with healthy options and offering them fewer temptations.

One alternative is to order a meal kit from Plated, a company that makes it easy to prepare home-cooked meals. Additionally, if you’d like to start the healthier-eating conversation at your child’s school or camp, or on her sports team, I suggest using these form letters.

It is up to us, as parents, to protect our children. If we approach the problem head-on, and introduce real foods in a natural, gradual way, sugar will loosen its damaging hold on our kids.

My Suggestions for Healthy Kids’ Snacks:

Any fruits

Cereal without sugar

Edamame – boiled soybeans in the pod

Whole grain, low-salt snacks


Beans and Bean Dips

Cottage Cheese with Fruit Pieces

Any vegetables: Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, avocados, etc.

Mini rice cakes—unsalted

Applesauce (natural, made from whole apples, without added sugar).


Disclosure: ff Venture Capital is an investor in both Plated as well as Parsely, creator of the Startup Diet.

Image of candy via Shutterstock

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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“Lunch Box Rules” Every Family Needs!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

This is a post from Jillian Riley of A Mom with a Lesson Plan provided by our sponsor Del Monte. This content was commissioned by our brand partner.  Such content is not written by, and does not necessarily reflect the views of

After a summer full of together time the approaching school year is bittersweet. With a 3rd grader and a 2nd grader, I am excited about having some full days dedicated to kid free work time. But I’ll miss the long games and extra cuddles that come with lazy summer days.

Another change that happens when school starts is food. At home I choose what the kids eat for snack and lunch. It’s easy to provide a grazing tray with healthy snacks and fill their plates with just as much lunch as they need. For school, filling their lunch box seems like it should be just as simple.

But then kids are kids… and Mom is not standing close by.

Lunch Box Rules

Problem #1 – Trading Food. It’s bound to happen. The kid next to yours will bring an exciting food that you NEVER buy. You will send a special sandwich that someone else just has to try and before the monitoring adult knows what’s happened the cafeteria has become a trading event.

The Rule – Eat What’s Packed in Your Lunch Box. As a family, talk about why it’s important that your kids eat what you’ve packed. You plan and pack foods that will fuel their body and brain. You know what they’ve had for breakfast and you probably know what they’ll have for dinner. If someone has something that your kids would like to try they can write down the name or try to describe it to you. If it’s something you want to serve great! If it’s not get creative and make a version that works for you.

Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers and Del Monte Fruit cups come in a variety of yummy flavors. Everyone will want to trade with your kid! (And he won’t be willing to give it up.) Enter the Del Monte Facebook contest and let them know if it’s squeeze or spoon at your house.

Problem #2 – Throwing Food Away. It actually never occurred to me that this might happen until my son’s teacher told me they were having a problem with kids throwing away their food. At first it may not seem like that big of a deal, but then I thought more about it. Imagine the Mom who sends her daughter with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich day after day. The daughter throws that sandwich in the trash every day and comes home with an empty lunch box. The Mom then assumes the sandwiches are adored and gobbled up everyday. If she knew… she would probably switch up the main dish for something that would actually be eaten!

The Rule – Uneaten Food Gets Put Back in the Lunch Box. This is a great rule for two reasons. My kids bring home a lot of food because they are too busy chatting to eat. I don’t mind. They eat what I packed on the way home as an afternoon snack. It’s also a great rule because I know the amount of food they are eating. Kids tend to go through spurts. Some weeks they will eat and eat and eat. Other’s they will barely touch their food. This let’s me know just how much to pack.

Del Monte Fruit Burst

Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers contain 1 1/2 servings of real fruit and is an excellent source of Vitamin C. Plus they have NO high-fructose corn syrup and NO artificial flavors.

With these simple “Lunch Box Rules” lunchtime is a healthy event no matter where the kids are eating. YAY for that!

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Tags: | Categories: Meals, Snacking

Smart Summer Snacks

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

This is a guest post by Karen Cicero, Parents’ Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor

For the last few days, my daughter’s plain graham crackers have been coming back in the lunchbox she takes to camp. When I asked her why she didn’t eat them, her reason was clear: “I’m tired of the same stuff!” OK, I get it. I have fallen into a rut at the supermarket buying the same snacks that I know are at least somewhat healthy rather than stopping to read all the ingredients on the packages of new products.

Good thing is, last week I invited a bunch of kids to an event for a story in a future issue of Parents (no spoilers, sorry) and since I had to feed them something while they were there, I asked them to try a bunch of new snacks. Here’s what they thought was super yummy and what will be showing up in my daughter’s lunchbox next week.

* Horizon Snacks

Kids recognized this brand from their organic milk and tried the company’s new cracker line without hesitation. They liked all the flavors, including the cheddar snack crackers, organic cheese sandwich crackers, and chocolate grahams in the shape of cows and globes. Confession: I couldn’t stop munching on the chocolate grahams either.

* Tree Top Applesauce Pouches

The kids particularly enjoyed the flavor of the apple and mango puree. Each 50-calorie pouch has 2 grams of fiber and all the vitamin C that kids need for the day.

* Pirate’s Fruity Booty

It’s so colorful (pinkish-purple) yet it doesn’t contain any food dyes! It’s made with corn, rice, soy, and dried raspberry powder. Bonus: Pirate’s Fruity Booty is made in a facility that’s free of peanuts and tree nuts.

* Plum Organic Go Bars

This is a granola-type bar that’s made with five kinds of produce including carrot, kale, date, and apple. It also contains whole grains, fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Kids gobbled up the chocolate chip flavor.

Late July Tortilla Chips

My daughter has been a fan of the company’s Dude Ranch chips so I wasn’t surprised that the new restaurant style tortilla chips tasted amazing. The kids (and parents) liked the sea salt flavor, which is certified gluten- and nut-free. Just add salsa or guac.

Tasty Brand Chocolate Layer Cake Cookies

Of course, you’re not going to give your kids cookies for snack time every day. But I do pack my daughter cookies in her lunch (for camp and school) once or twice a week. My philosophy: It’s better to learn how to have sweets in moderation than avoid them altogether. The kids thought this brand, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market, tasted amazing and I like that I can recognize the ingredients listed on the label.

Honest Kids

These pouches—about 30 percent fruit juice and 70 percent water—are perfect for kids who won’t drink plain water. They’re 40 calories each, and our tasters liked the Super Fruit Punch and Berry Berry Lemonade flavors the best.

What snacks are your kids enjoying this summer?

Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack
Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack
Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack

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