I. Can. Hardly. Keep. Up.
Pretty much summarizes the pace at which both my toddler and my life move these days. Each day verges on the frantic side, but we’re learning to embrace the imbalance and just go with the flow.
But, one area where I don’t feel good about barely keeping up is with nutrition. We are generally a family of grazers – small meals and snacking in between. I hear that’s healthy, and that’s good because it’s what comes naturally for us!
If snacking was just up to my toddler, though, our diets would be made up of 90% crackers. At this age, finding the right foods for those little bellies can be tricky, especially since their preferences flip-flop from one day to the next. A busy family need snacks that are yummy and nutritious, but also quick and easy to make.
So, here are my current ‘go-to’s for great snacks for the trail and at home. The best thing about them is that everybody in our family loves them, whether they are 2 or 32. And I feel good about giving them to my little one because they are all egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and no-sugar-added – not that I mind giving these ingredients to my family from time-to-time, but we already have more than enough of them in our diets.
1. Coconut Date Bites
You’ll find many variations on ‘power balls’ all over the web. I love these ones, though, because they only have five ingredients and they are very quick to make. I can often make a batch while my little one is eating breakfast. I like to offer these Coconut Date Bites when Maya needs some energy or when she’s asking for something sweet. Our whole family loves them!
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup pitted medjool dates
1 tbsp coconut oil
3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Pulse the almonds in a food processor.
2. Add all the other ingredients and process until it starts to adhere. (Test it by squeezing the ‘dough’ between your fingertips).
3. Add additional dates if you need more sticky matter.
4. Roll into balls and put them in the fridge to help them bond.
2. Roasted Chickpeas
These are super easy to make, but you do need to keep an eye on your oven to keep them roasting evenly. Roasted chickpeas are a flavourful as you want them to be, and a great alternative to chips, or any other food your “savoury” tooth might be craving. You can make them sweet, too! A great food for the trail or munching indoors on a rainy day.
2 cans (15 oz) chickpeas
2 tbsp. olive oil
seasoning of your choice (see below)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash chickpeas, drain, spread on a baking sheet and dry with a hand towel or paper towel. Remove any remaining ‘skins’ from the chickpeas (little fingers are actually good at helping with this step).
3. Toss chickpeas thoroughly in olive oil.
4. Sprinkle with sea salt, to taste.
5. Roast chickpeas in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, shaking the pan every 5-10 minutes to make sure they roast evenly.
6. Season once you have removed them from the oven and while still hot. Great seasoning combos: garlic powder, sesame oil and sesame seeds (pictured here); cinnamon and honey (put them back in the oven for a bit to let them caramelize); and chili powder, cumin and fresh squeezed lime (I suggest baking them with the lime juice, and tossing them with a bit of oil after roasting before sprinkling them with spices).
3. Dehydrated Fruit
Oh, nature’s candy. Dehydrated fruit is a great option for kids because it doesn’t leave a mess (though of course strawberry juice all over a kid’s face is a big part of childhood). When we feel we’re at a ‘low’, dried fruit gives that little pick-me-up, and is super delicious. Best thing about it? You can forget about it in your bag, and it doesn’t go bad. If you’re out camping or adventuring, add it to trail mix or oatmeal for a bit of extra flavour.
fruit of your choice (I suggest apples, strawberries, peaches, and banana)
1. Wash, prepare (remove pits/blemishes, etc.) and slice fruit, keeping sections consistent in size (no thicker than 1/4-inch). A mandoline works wonders on most fruits.
2. Many websites will tell you to pre-treat your fruits. It depends on which fruit you’re using. For all mentioned above, I have omitted the pre-treatment, and still been pleased with the results. Pre-treating does help to maintain the (quite minimal) loss of nutrients during the drying process.
If you have a food dehydrator: Lay fruit slices out on trays and dry at 135 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-16 hours, checking it occasionally. Fruit will be generally leathery, but pliable, when ready.
We use the 9-tray food dehydrator (with timer) from Excalibur Food Dehydrator, and love it.