Nutritionist Amanda Ford from Zest+Zing shares her top tips for making your kids’ lunchboxes healthy and tasty (including an easy recipe!).

Preparing healthy snacks for our kids, which are also convenient, allergen-free, and of course, something your child will enjoy, is a challenge all parents face.

The problem with many pre-packaged snacks is they lack any nutritional value for our kids. They contain refined ingredients, often added preservatives, artificial colours and flavours, as well as being low in protein and high in added sugars.

So instead of energising and nourishing our children, these packaged snacks are often the reason behind low energy (particularly that afternoon slump), poor concentration and behaviour and poor development. The key to a healthy snack is choosing unrefined foods (i.e. not in a packet) that are low in sugar and rich in protein to fuel your child up physically and mentally!

Here are five popular healthy snack ideas the whole family can enjoy, and are easy to prepare.

* Frittata Muffins
A protein-rich snack filled with good fats, essential nutrients like Vitamin B12 and choline that are vital for healthy brain function, helping with cognitive development and function in kids. I recommend grating in the vegetables for kids and choose their favourite vegetables to add. Frittata muffins keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or you can freeze them for longer. They’re also a great breakfast on the go! See my recipe below.

* Homemade Banana Bread
Store bought banana breads are very high in sugars. However homemade banana bread can be a really good option for kids using natural sugars and unrefined whole-grains like spelt or even coconut flour for gluten free options. This Spelt and Honey Banana Bread is a good recipe that everyone enjoys!

* Greek or Natural Yoghurt
Yoghurt is rich in protein, calcium, good fats and beneficial bacteria which promote healthy digestion and immune function. Avoid any flavoured yoghurts, which are high in sugars, and choose unflavoured Greek or natural yoghurt, which you can add your own fresh fruit to, or even stir through some vanilla or flavoured stevia for natural sweetness.

* Fresh Fruit + Vegetable Sticks
Most kids these days are not eating enough fibre. Keep snacks simple with some cut up vegetable sticks and fruit pieces. Ideally do a ratio of three vegetables to one piece of fruit. Adding something for them to dip these into like yoghurt, hummus or avocado is also a great way to boost the good fats and proteins.

* Wholegrain Crispbreads
Brown rice and quinoa are nutritious wholegrains rich in fibre and essential nutrients, plus they’re gluten free. A simple switch from the white or flavoured rice crackers, Cruskits, Saos or any refined crackers to wholegrain options makes such a difference to your child’s nutrition.

I recommend these products found in the health food aisle of supermarkets:

Top the rice cakes or crispbreads with some protein such as cheese and tomato, or a natural nut butter (if you’re at home).

Frittata Muffin Recipe (Makes 6 muffins)

Ingredients:
½ brown onion, chopped

6 organic eggs

3 tablespoons milk

6 ripened cherry tomatoes, quartered

100g fresh goat’s cheese or feta

Handful of rocket and baby spinach, roughly chopped
½ small zucchini, grated

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste
6-hole muffin tray lined with baking paper or sprayed with oil if silicone

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. In a saucepan over moderate heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onion until browned. Then add the zucchini and tomatoes and sauté for a minute until just tender and combined through the onion.
Beat the eggs and milk together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Divide the vegetable mix into the 6 muffin holes; pour the egg mixture on top and then sprinkle with cheese on top. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes or until cooked through and let them cool before removing from the tin.
These will keep in the fridge for 3 days, or you can freeze and defrost to eat as you like. Enjoy a muffin as a healthy snack!

Amanda Ford, Nutritionist
Amanda Ford from Zest+Zing is an accredited Nutritionist who is passionate about educating her clients on the role of nutrition and how to use food as medicine. She wants everyone to be empowered to improve their health and get their zest for life back!

She has a special interest in digestive health and food intolerances, and enjoys working with young kids. And as a passionate foodie, Amanda is well known for her practical approach to healthy eating.

 Amanda practices on the Northern Beaches, and also via Skype consultations. Visit her website for more information including healthy recipes and nutrition tips! You can contact Amanda directly via amanda@zestandzing.com.au or 0410 799 449 for any enquiries.