Feed Your Children Well

Without being extreme about it, I try to feed our family well.  By that, I mean healthy.  I come by it honestly.  My mom was into nutrition long before it was cool.  She used to grow alfalfa sprouts on the kitchen counter and make homemade yogurt, bread, granola, stewed prunes, and the list goes on, I’m sure.  As a result, I guess I developed a taste for nutritious food and a concern for healthy eating. 

As we kids got older and her career took off, Mom got a bit lax.  We still ate whole wheat bread, but it was store bought.  And all sorts of convenience foods began to appear in the cupboards.  Homemade granola became a treat, not the norm.  Yes, I said a treat.  To this day I love that stuff.

I think she instilled in me a healthy respect (healthy, get it? ha!) for nutritious food without making me obsessed with it.  We have our fair share of junk in the cabinets, but there are some things I just cannot bring myself to buy on a regular basis.  Sugared cereals, for example.  And white bread.  Pop tarts have never darkened our door, nor have "fruit snacks" — you do know they rot your teeth, right?  Don’t let the "fruit" part fool you.  Same with juice.  I try to get 100% fruit juice when at all possible.  Capri Sun makes some if you look carefully.

Now, before you think I’m a real goody-goody, you should know that I regularly buy Doritos and Coca-Cola.  Hey, I never said I was consistent.  I just TRY, as a GENERAL RULE, to keep nutritious food in the house and crap out.

There are a few ingredients I try to avoid at all costs.  In fact, I go to great lengths to keep them out of my cupboards.  Mainly I’m talking about anything artificial — artificial sugars, colors, fats, you get the picture.  You will find plenty of butter in my fridge, but never margarine.  Half-and-half, not "non-dairy creamer". 

I love sweets, but if it’s in my house it’s sweetened with sugar, not with sucralose.  And I try to keep my sweets homemade so I know exactly what is going into them.  And also, I can sneak some whole-wheat flour (they even make bags of half and half flour now) into my cookies and muffins.  They never know the difference.

At the store, I always read labels, and I try to avoid anything with partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs)or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  Both have been linked to obesity and heart disease.  Fortunately many manufacturers have stopped using PHOs in their processed foods, but for some reason, HFCS seems to be in EVERYTHING.

Which is why I love and adore Trader Joe’s.  I had stopped buying even seemingly benign snacks such as graham crackers and applesauce because of the HFCS.  But earlier this week, I found both items at Trader Joes MINUS the crap.  My daughter was so excited she was dancing in the isles, the poor, deprived child.

I came home with about $95 worth of snacks gloriously free from the evils of PHO and HFCS.  Which is exactly when I began composing this post in my mind.  I even took a picture of a bunch of my favorite Trader Joe’s treats to share with you, because clearly I have no life.

The apple sauce is purple, much to my daughter’s delight, but it’s sweetened and colored with berry juice instead of artificial colorings and the dreaded HFCS.  My daughter always asks for the stuff we see in the grocery store, and I usually tell her no because it’s full of junk (and she doesn’t like the "natural" applesauces; I guess they’re not very sweet.)  But not at TJ’s.  She and the rest of my kids love these, and they devoured both packs before this post went live.  Likewise, the cinnamon grahams were an unexpected (and guilt-free) treat we discovered this week.

Those Cheese Sticks are mine, mine, MINE.  I love to snack on them in the early evening with a glass of wine.  Then you have my favorite tortilla chips with soy and flaxseed.  Shaddup.  Don’t knock it till you try it.  They’re GOOD.  And good for you too.  Kids even like them.  I also have pictured my favorite salsa as well as a bag of Cheese Crunchies, which we
discovered on our last visit.  They’re like Cheetos but without as much
junk.  Score!  Oh, and the peanut-butter filled pretzels are To. Die. For.

In the way back are their vanilla wafers (minus the HFCS, of course), and they taste much better than the vanilla wafers at the supermarket.  In fact, I would have to say that I’m mildly addicted to them at the moment.

The Chicken Drumettes are a staple in our freezer.  My kids love them for lunch.  I also get my coffee at Trader Joes, which is what’s in that canister in the back.  It’s not healthier than any other coffee, but it’s good coffee at a good price.

I have lots of other Trader Joe’s favorites that I didn’t have on hand to photograph.  I don’t only buy snacks there, although they are my main reason for making the trek.  I also like their frozen veggies and fruits, their frozen pizza, and the frozen pre-made burritos and taquitos.  Oh, and their maple syrup is cheaper than the grocery store.  I’m not talking about Log Cabin, either.  (FYI, that stuff is LOADED with HFCS.)

The day after I wrote this post, I found out that my dear bloggy friend Megan at Fried Okra is hosting a carnival this week where we share our top 10 healthy kid snacks.  So I saved this post so I could link up and join her party.  You know me, I never miss a party.

So to sum it up, my top 10 healthy kid snacks:

1. Carrots – the REAL ones.  My kids love them.  They call them "bunny carrots".  They will eat the mini carrots too, but for some reason, they prefer the full-sized ones.

2. Berries – you can’t beat the health benefits from berries, especially if they’re locally grown.

3. Whole Grain Goldfish snack crackers – I buy the big cartons at the grocery store.  My kids love these.

4. Applesauce (WITHOUT artificial sweeteners, colorings, and HFCS).

5. Chips and Salsa – I’m partial to those from Trader Joe’s I showed above.

6. String Cheese

7. Cheese Crunchies (Trader Joe’s)

8. Vanilla Wafers (Trader Joe’s)

9. Mini Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers (Trader Joe’s)

10. Peanuts – we have tree nut allergies in our house, so we can only have peanuts, but if you’re kids aren’t allergic, walnuts and other tree nuts are a great source of nutrition.

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks?  I’m always open to new ideas.

Join The Conversation

33 Responses

  1. O I will have to try some of these on my next shopping trip. I have never been to trader joes in fear of the price of things. But it sounds like things are fairly reasonable! I have just started making my own bread and sweets to hope cut down on all of the junk that gets put into the packaged stuff.

  2. OK – feeling very deprived now without Trader Joe. Obviously my life is incomplete, and my children will never know the joy of purple apple sauce. (Actually they have only ever had apple sauce at Walt Disney World – it seemed to come with every kids meal we reluctantly purchased).

    I think we all need therapy!

  3. You’re right, the soy and flaxseed tortilla chips are fabulous. Have you tried the chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzles? When I was pregnant, I would stop and buy a bag after every ob appointment. Yum!

    I enjoy the mini yogurt cups as a snack. Sometimes I’ll put all natural granola in it for some crunch.

  4. waaahhhh i want a trader joes!! rumor has it we’re getting a whole foods in the next year or so – ::crosses fingers:: – till then i hit up this place called “fresh market”. our favorite snacks are not very original – pretzels and fruit (bananas, strawberries & pineapple is in the house at all times. if i never see a “fruit snack” again it will still be too soon!

  5. You’re a girl after my own heart! Trader Joes RAWKS. I love love love their homeade tortillas, whole wheat english muffins, “An apple walks into a Bar”, and dried fruit. Great snacks!

    Watch out for those whole wheat goldfish. They have partially-hydrogenated nastiness in ’em. That’s another ingredient that’s on the no-no list…

    And yes. I’m a freak and I admit it.

  6. Have you tried the Schoolhouse cookies yet? My kids call them alphabet cookies and they can’t seem to get enough of them.

    They also go gaga over the freeze dried mango. I have never seen it anywhere else.

    Last, but certainly not least is my favorite: peanut butter! TJ’s peanut butter has only peanuts and salt and tastes just like JIF! It doesn’t get any better than that! 🙂

  7. I keep reading on lots of blogs about how wonderful TJ’s is. I have never been to one but I recently read in the newspaper that they are building one that will only be about 20 minutes from me. I guess I will have to venture over once it is finished.

  8. Oh when is Oklahoma going to get a Trader Joe’s??? I buy similar stuff at Akin’s which is a health food store here. You are right, some of the things…my kids can’t even tell a difference, like the graham crackers. I did find Capri Suns without HFCS recently. It’s hard to find though! Maybe I’ll just visit Trader Joe’s online and check out those cheese sticks 🙂

  9. You are the fourth person in as many days that has suggested I shop Trader Joes. We have one, but I have never gone. We usually just go with out the snacks mentioned above because of the all the issues you listed.

    LAst week my daughter was begging me to buy a box of Cheez-Its, so I came home and tried to make my own…it didn’t go too well. So I think a trip to TJ’s for some more nutritious cheese crackers is a must!

  10. I would die without Trader Joes, I love that place. I go there every week. I love love love those peanut butter filled pretzels. We also love their pita chips and hummus, dried fruit (pineapple and mango is my fav), their cereals, and well… really I love all of their stuff.

  11. I love Trader Joe’s… I mean I really LOVE TJ’s. We live overseas and sadly, TJ’s doesn’t have any type of online purchasing. When we come back to the States, I always made an immediate beeline over there.

    Last year Oprah did a show on eating healthy and talked about reducing intake of HFCS and PHO… the entire show was about label watching and making sure these ingredients don’t end up in the top 5 list of ingredients on any food label. My husband who can’t stand Oprah actually watched with me… it was eye opening.

    Anyway kudos to your post! I’m actually Stateside now and will be making a trip over to TJ’s tomorrow. I’m going to take your list with me – my kids will be in heaven!

  12. Count me among the sad people who don’t have a Trader Joe’s remotely nearby.


    Thankfully, my girls love fruit, any kind, and yogurt. I even recently discovered they like cottage cheese, too. Score!

    I once bought a bag of peanut butter-filled pretzels for the kiddos, and would you believe that not one of them liked ’em? Go figure.

  13. My husband has obliterated HFCS in our house. He rocks. TJs rocks.

    My healthy snacks:
    *fruit, fruit, and more fruit with some veggies thrown in
    *homemade cookies (I can cut the sugar in 1/2)
    *cottage cheese
    *homemade yogurt

    And because we have zero self-control we never have in our house (except for special occasions): juice, ice cream, soda, chips.

  14. We recently moved to TX from MN and one of the things I miss the most (besides our friends) is TJoes! I loved it for the snacks – have you tried the toasted pumpkin seeds in the shell? I also stocked up on WW pastas, couscous and quinoa. They have cheap natural bath and cleaning products too. I’m hoping to go visit MN this summer and I will be bringing an empty bag so I can stock up at TJoes.

  15. No Trader Joe’s in these parts. Also, why is the good stuff so much more expensive? I do try to keep most of the junk out of our house. My kids love Fuji apples with natural peanut butter. That is a top snack. Fortunately, they also love grapes, which are an easy to prepare snack (if you count rinsing as preparing!). Yogurt is popular too. We’re pretty boring.

  16. We do not have a Trader Joes but I share your pursuit of healthier snacks. I had lunch with my daughter at school yesterday and MY.WORD….the pediatric obesity rate in the 4th grade at her school probably hovers near 40%. Some of them had to wear near my weight. Horrifying on so many levels. I let DD have a little junk every day, but the popular (or not so popular!) refrain around here is “you can have an apple….or some strawberries….or a peach! Keep up the good fight. It will pay off.

  17. Ok, please tell me you didn’t spend $95 on just what was in the picture, there was more, right??? Because I would be in huge trouble for spending $95 and not having an entire cart full of something, ha ha!

  18. In our house HFCS is nicknamed “the evil.” It’s hard to believe how much stuff it is actually in! I have pretty much eliminated it from our house too.

    We have Whole Foods & and a store called Central Market that I think is like Trader Joes, where I buy alot of our snacks. It does get expensive though.

  19. LOVE Trader Joe’s. Right now I am snacking on “nuts about raspberries & chocolate trek mix” which is yummy, but has almonds in it. We just discovered the vanilla wafers last week, and they were gone in one day. We also love love love their frozen mandarin orange chicken. Sometimes they have a chocolate chocolate chip baking mix that is heavenly. Their chocolate chips are the best for baking! Also, their hot dogs have no nitrates in them…

    I could go on and on.

  20. I LOVE trader joes… we moved to the Hershey area and I MISS it sooo badly that when we are down in the burbs I stock up!

  21. I love Trader Joe’s. It’s such a great store. I can’t wait for them to build one in my area.

    Favorite healthy snacks? Hmmm….
    1. Berries – especially blueberries and strawberries
    2. Apple slices
    3. Cheese cubes

    I wish I could say that I don’t usually just grab granola bars and cracker packs because they’re sooooo convenient…but I can’t. Working on that…

  22. First, how have I missed the peanut butter pretzels? Are they by the chips? Where?!?

    Second, Trader Joe’s is truly a wonder. (This love-fest is Exhibit A.) Healthy food with a environmental and global conscience that’s NOT expensive. (Unlike Whole Foods.)

    Third, I’ve been eyeing the cinnamon grahams for a few weeks now, but I’m wondering how they’d hold up to s’more making. What’s your opinion?

  23. I LOVE TJ’s! However, the only time I get to shop there is when I cross the state & visit my parents *sigh*
    I love their dried fruit best yum-o!

  24. How timely! I just went to Trader’s this morning with my son. Don’t you also find that Trader’s is more kid-friendly than your average grocery store? My little guy was so engrossed in the balloon a friendly employee gave him he didn’t even realize it was past his lunch/nap time.

    A while back I posted a dish that I made from ingredients at Trader’s. My son LOVED it and it’s super healthy. Check it out:


  25. By the way, you can buy unsweetened applesauce at the grocery store–store brand and everything. You have to look for “unsweetened” but I think it only has apples and water.

    What amazes me about Trader Joes is that it’s generally as cheap as other stores. I always thought that it was high-end and expensive. Not necessarily.

    Now that I know that you keep half and half, I’ll feel free to drop by for coffee.

  26. We really love Trader Joes here in So Cal. I have to pick and choose when to go there because it gets so crowded but my favorites are their nonfat cottage cheese, almonds (they come in single serving packets), “an apple walks into a bar” cereal bars, the banana chewy granola bars, Gorilla Crunch Munch cereal (treat cereal/only once or twice a wk), Chicken Enchiladas, Sweet Potato Fries, Gardenburgers, Schoolhouse cookies, popcorn (in black bag), and mini pitas (we cut them in triangles and bake with cinnamon to make pita chips)
    Trader Joes is yum!

  27. In the current Fitness magazine are the Healthy Foods Awards – several pages of top healthy foods in different categories. I can scan and email it to you if you want – just let me know!!

  28. Oh you are killing me! I haven’t been to a Trader Joes in 6 months since I left California! My faves- pretzel rolls- it’s bread that tastes like a PRETZEL!! Pretzel chips. (see a theme here?) Cranberry instant oatmeal. Two Buck Chuck. Organic pasta. Jalapeno cornbread. ANY of their hummus. My husband and daughter loved the sushi and california rolls.

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