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.