Feeding your own kids is a big enough challenge. But figuring out what food to serve at a playdate is a whole other nut to crack. Between fussy palates, food allergies, safety concerns, and a desire to keep things relatively nutritious, parents may find themselves struggling to find a snack that meets all of the requirements and is still fun to eat.
We talked to 4 experts in the field—moms of kids ages 2-12, who also happen to be registered dietitian nutritionists—to learn their favorite snacks that meet some of the most common playdate needs. Here are some of their go-to munchies:
For a Morning Meetup:
Bagels and cream cheese are easy enough, but they're not exactly nutrient-packed. Instead, help your guests fuel the day with a snack that is a balance of protein, whole grains, and produce. "Blueberry oatmeal blender muffins are so easy I have actually made these before a playdate—and I'm no baker," says Janel Funk, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian specializing in family feeding. The main ingredients are oats, blueberries, and Greek yogurt; a quick Google search will pull up plenty of yummy recipe options.
For the Littlest Ones:
Kids ages 4 and younger are at risk of choking than older kids; the American Academy of Pediatrics says foods like whole nuts, uncut grapes, chunks of raw vegetables, spoonsful of peanut butter, and popcorn are best avoided until kids are in elementary school. Luckily, there are plenty of other options. Try turning fruit like apples, pears, and melon into fun shapes using small cookie cutters, says Jodi Danen, RDN, a culinary dietitian, and family nutrition blogger at Create Kids Club. Serve with vanilla yogurt for dipping—the added protein will help keep everyone satisfied so they're less likely to ask for another snack 30 minutes later.
For Kids That Can't Wait to Play:
If the backyard is beckoning and your little pals just can't sit still long enough for a bite, try a snack they can take on their adventures. "Try a kid-friendly homemade trail mix that they can take in a baggy," says Sarah Remmer, RD, founder of the Centre for Family Nutrition in Calgary, Alberta. Include things like sliced almonds, small dried fruit like raisins or cranberries, and whole grain dry cereal like Cheerios.
A quickly consumed snack is another way to go. Smoothies can pack a lot of nutrition in a small cup, and don't take long to down. "At my house we make it simple and add 2 cups of milk, 2 cups of frozen fruit, and then add 2 large scoops of vanilla yogurt and blend, adding milk to get the right consistency," says Danen.
For Busy Parents:
For Busy Parents: You don't need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen to create a fun food experience. Popcorn makes a great canvas for creativity for older kids (5+). Pop some whole grain kernels (we like Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theatre Butter popcorn). Set out an assortment of toppings—dried herbs like oregano and parsley, spices like cinnamon and garlic powder, cheese like grated parmesan—give each kid their own bowl and watch them get creative.
Another fun DIY option where the prep work is on the kids rather than you is a make-your-own fruit and yogurt parfait. "It's kind of like a healthier sundae bar," says Lesley Langille, RD, a registered dietitian with the Centre for Family Nutrition in Calgary, Alberta. Offer yogurt, berries or other fruit, granola, seeds like chia and flax, maple syrup, and cinnamon.
For a Nut Allergic Kiddo:
If you're lucky enough to have an allergy-free family, it can feel daunting to invite a guest with nut allergies to visit. But there are plenty of delicious options everyone will love. Funk recommends banana splits—cut half of a banana lengthwise and top with sunflower seed butter, chia seeds, coconut flakes, and a drizzle of honey. It's a good policy to double check before you serve, even if you think the ingredients are OK, though—you can never be too cautious with food allergies.
For Post Sports Practice:
When kids are zonked from sports, they really need fuel—along with carbs and protein to help replace their energy stores and help their muscles get stronger. "Naan pizza is always a hit," says Danen. Pick up on miniature versions of the Indian flatbread from your local grocery store. When you get home, lay them on a baking sheet and top with tomato sauce, cheese, and other toppings like veggies or pepperoni. Bake in the toaster or oven until cheese is melted. In less than 10 minutes you'll have individual pizzas ready to eat.