Variety is Key

Variety is key for healthy snack foods.
In my last blog I explained why it’s best to buy the same, boring selection of processed snack foods since eating the same foods over and over eventually becomes unappealing (end result:  your family will eat less processed foods.)  For that same reason it’s important to vary the healthy snack foods you serve each week so you won’t fall into a healthy snack food rut.
This advice is similar to taking toys out of rotation so that when they’re brought back into rotation they seem new and exciting again. This strategy also works well for snacking.  I used to stop serving certain snacks when my kids wouldn’t eat them anymore, but looking back it wasn’t because they stopped liking them, they just needed a change. 
It’s certainly okay to serve your family’s tried and true healthy snack “staples” every week – apples, bananas, yogurt or whatever these are for your family (hey if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!), but in addition to these staple snacks, it's great to rotate in and out other healthy snacks so you can offer something different each week. Tastes and preferences vary for each family so take note of which snacks your kids never turn down and which snacks need to be rotated. 
Here are some easy strategies to help put some variety into healthy snacking:
  • Make a “healthy snack list”. Talk to your kids about what snacks they like and make a running list of these foods. Also, when you see a new snack idea or your kids tell you about a great snack they had over so and so’s house, put it on this list. It’s hard to keep track of all these snacks in your head - that’s how we get stuck serving the same things over and over - so instead just write it down.  Refer to this list before your weekly shopping trip or whenever you feel you need to infuse a change into your snack offerings.
  • Check out the snack section of my “50 Healthy Eating Tips” on the Raise Your Rainbow® website – there are many snack ideas you can add to your list.  Some snacks may be considered staple snacks (bowl of fruit) while others may be better to rotate in and out every few weeks. For instance, my kids LOVE fruit/yogurt/granola parfaits, but if I make these too often they start to lose their appeal. Also explore websites like Pinterest for an endless supply of creative healthy snack ideas to add to your repertoire.  
  • Rotate seasonal fruits - Some fruits are only available when in-season (plums, cherries), and although some are available year-round (berries), they are much more affordable when in-season and better yet, sold by local farms.   So don’t forget to add seasonal fruits to your snack line-up and the ones that are available year-round, rotate these more often during their peak season.
  • Change flavors or how something is served. Sometimes making a slight change in a snack is enough. Nuts and seeds are great examples because you can vary how you serve them: as a topping, in a trail mix, by the handful; or serve a different type each week: peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds...
  • Smoothies – Variety is key with smoothies too.   Making the same smoothie over and over can become monotonous and because smoothies are such a delicious way to get a maga-dose of nutrients you don’t want to have this snack run its course with your kids. So switch up the flavors and colors of your smoothies by keeping a variety of frozen fruits on hand. Also, just varying the times when you serve them can make a difference – breakfast, afternoon snack or bedtime snack... If you don’t currently make smoothies, try one of our smoothie recipes and once you find a flavor that you like add this to your healthy snack list.
  • Think in terms of Rainbows – Have your children look at which colors are left on their Raise Your Rainbow® game and they’ll be motivated to choose a snack based on a missing color in order to win the game. This is an easy way to work fruits and vegetables into snack time!
So don’t be so quick to retire a healthy snack just because your family loses interest, simply keep it on your snack list and bring it back every few weeks. Use the strategies above and you’ll have many healthy snacks to choose from in order to keep snack time fresh and interesting and best of all, over time these healthful snacks will crowd out the processed ones!