Wednesday, 15 April 2015

What to Pack?: Healthy "Food-tainment"

When mommy or daddy need a little break, or to get something done, there are lots of little tricks to keep junior occupied. Some are great, but not always possible, like getting the baby to nap. Some are always possible, but maybe not ideal, like putting on a kids' show. Then there's that middle ground. It's sneaky, practical, and also very effective - a snack. Knowing what we know about childhood obesity and emotional eating, this crutch can be a worrisome tool as well. Since I can't always remember to have fresh cut bananas with me, I decided to look in to some of the most common baby snacks on the market for children under 2. I'll rate them in terms of virtues (like nutritional value and portability), vices (like added sugar or salt) and cost effectiveness.

Puffs (ie Gerber) 
A modern classic for any snacking age baby is the "puff"; a whole grain puffed rice treat with added flavours ranging from savoury (like veggie or cheesy) to sweet variations (like banana or vanilla blueberry). Kids love them, and seem to be able to detect another baby partaking from miles away. While a fairly healthy treat, being mostly air and all, these are flavoured. They contain sugar, and are certainly meant only for occasional consumption. Ranging anywhere from $1.99 to over $5.00 for a can containing 42g, that's probably for the best. Remember, they are great for practising the fine art of the pincer grasp, but half will end up on your floor.

Before there were puffs, there were Cheerios. A whole grain breakfast cereal for toddlers and adults alike. While not marketed directly as a first food, the ingredient list is a lot more lengthy that your average baby food item, but no worse. They are slightly higher in sodium and lower in sugar than puffs, and much cheaper! A 595g family size box is only $3.98! If that's not enough of a selling feature, think about this - Cheerios can be strung like a necklace! It's a great afternoon activity for older kids and a perfect distraction accessory for grocery shopping!

Yogurt Drops
For a snack with less (or even no) grains, yogurt drops might be right for your baby. Packed with pro-biotics, these fruit filled treats are more chewy than their cereal counterparts. I feel that this presents the same choking hazard as raisins, for a much higher price. While careful supervision has made these little guys a hit with some mommies, raisins were a better value for my son. He just didn't dig the texture. Another thing to consider is the higher sodium and the presence of dairy, which might not be right until a little later on.

Rice Rusks (ie Mum-Mums)
These crunchy, melt-able treats are always a winner with my son. Low in salt, sugar, and calories, you don't have to worry about keeping these individually packed wonders as a snack on the go. While recommended for 6+ months, a well-supervised beginner could manage these, and they continue to be a hit well past a year. Although they're still edible, they do seem to get pulverized when stored in the wrong pocket of your diaper bag, so be aware of that when you're packing! With a huge assortment of flavours and an inexpensive price tag, they are my go to portable treat.

What's your little one's favourite snack? Got tips for entertainment on the go? We want to hear about it! Comment here or on Facebook!

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