Many of those who’ve stopped eating sugar are curious about what to eat for snacks. My days are usually pretty busy, but I try and eat every 4 hours. I have low blood sugar, and waiting too long to eat sets me up to overeat. For this reason, I also take snacks with me when I go out. (I keep nuts in my car for just the purpose).
If I’m going to be gone for more than a quick trip, I’ll pack an insulated lunch box with a variety of foods: almonds; cooked sliced chicken breast, some cooked cold green beans, and baby carrots with hummus. I also take a big bottle of water, refilling it throughout the day as needed.
This is where advance preparation can make a huge impact. For years, I ate whole foods while at home, but ate lots of processed food at parties or when running errands and shopping. Because I didn’t plan, I’d show up at birthday parties starving, or would be so hungry after running errands all day that I’d give in to the first food I saw: usually junk. Now, I care for myself by planning ahead and taking the time to take my food with me.
Low sugar snacks
For snacks, I often have nuts: pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pistachios and almonds are my favorites. I love to pair them with a low sugar fruit, like a tart green apple or some berries. Many times, I’ll have a small meal, such as a bowl of soup or a salad, when I’m hungry.
At the same time, eating whole, unprocessed foods, eating to balance my blood sugar, and eating a low sugar diet stabilized my blood sugar so I’m not hungry all the time. Instead, I tend to feel very satisfied eating 3-4 meals a day and am not craving food in between.
But what about children’s snacks? While I try to serve my children an abundance of whole foods, I’m also realistic. I want to be honest with you – my kids do eat sugar, and my husband and I offer them intentional treats. For example, our kids have a treat every week during our Friday night movie nights, such as fresh popped popcorn in coconut oil with fruit spritzers; sugar sweetened (vs. corn syrup sweetened) ice cream with berries and nuts, or a homemade, almond flour berry crisp.
How to help your child love healthy food
One of the surprising things I’ve learned about weaning my children off processed or sugary foods is that as the mom – the provider and caretaker – I need to take it upon myself to offer and prepare healthy food for my children. This is not something to leave up to my children, nor to make their responsibility. This knowledge came from studying with my mentor, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, and his attachment based theory of child development.
We often tell children – especially children who are old enough to do so – to fix themselves a snack or healthy food when they’re hungry. Then we can feel frustrated when we find them later, snacking on junk. But this misses an understanding of how children grow and develop.
It’s a paradox: we foster independence in our children not by forcing or pushing independence, but by fostering dependence. The more children feel cared for and nurtured the more they want to stand on their own two feet and learn to do it themselves. It’s how they internally develop those models and patterns and forms of, “This is how I eat. This is how I care for my body. This is what makes my body feel good.”
If you want your children to internalize a healthy relationship with food and want them to choose healthy foods on their own as they grow and leave home, you need to create a positive food culture that associates loving memories of connection, contact, closeness, and pleasure with healthy food.
It’s these positive memories, combined with your provision of healthy food, that is their best bet against unhealthy eating habits – not indoctrinating your children to the dangers of junk food or explaining why they need certain foods or why they shouldn’t eat others.
Move to care for your child by feeding them
One of the keys to this approach is to offer your children regular, hearty meals of whole foods. I find that my children will often say, “I’m not hungry” when I ask them if they want something to eat. But if I move to care for them and prepare food for them, they will happily eat it – even foods like vegetables! It’s not that they’re not hungry when they say, “I’m not hungry,” – more accurately, it’s that they’re tired and they don’t feel like cooking themselves something healthy. It’s why they eat chips or candy instead – it takes no effort to prepare these foods.
What they’re needing and wanting is to be cared for and fed. This is an invitation for us to move to meet their needs, to be their answer and offer them healthy, nourishing food. This longing to be fed and nourished is no different than how we feel at the end of the day – tired, worn out and hungry. We also long to return home to a delicious, healthy home cooked meal and the greater sense of relaxation that comes from being cared for.
One of the other keys to this approach is to allow the environment to work for you. If your home is filled with healthy food options, then your children can choose among them. The environment acts as a boundary that minimizes conflict over eating.
Some ideas of healthy snacks
So rather than serving snack foods, or spending hours buying, reading labels, or trying to find a healthy child’s snack food that is sugar free, try making your child a mini meal when they’re hungry. Here are some suggestions and ideas from my family’s repertoire:
- Dinner leftovers from the night before – a bowl of soup is especially satisfying at 4 p.m.
- A huge salad with veggies, some meat, cheese, tart apples, and a tangy, rich homemade dressing (I like this one from the Well Fed author, Melissa Joulwan.)
- Veggies and homemade ranch dip (I make this dairy free ranch with coconut cream here)
- If you or your children can handle grains, try toast (made on sprouted, grainless bread) with almond butter or unsweetened peanut butter
- A cheese and salami plate (my kids like the Applegate farms brand that is nitrate free)
- Nitrate free bacon and a fried egg (We eat a lot of bacon at our house.)
- Guacamole and veggies (We live in Texas and eat a lot of guacamole.)
- Hummus and veggies
- Corn tortillas with hot melted cheddar cheese, black beans, and salsa. (I put several on a cookie sheet and stick them in the broiler until they’re warm and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Yes, I am known to forget that there are tortillas in the broiler and to notice the alarming smell of something burning.)
- A serving of low sugar fruit, such as an apple, some berries, tangerines or a nectarine, with some peanut butter, almond butter or nuts
- An apple or banana, cut into slices, with almond butter
- Plain yogurt or plain greek yogurt with almonds and berries (We use fresh when available; frozen berries in the winter.)
- A rice cake with cream cheese and peanut butter, sometimes with a dash of a no-sugar added jam (I know it sounds odd, but my kids loved these when they were small.)
- Set out a plate of veggies, like cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and red peppers, some diced grilled, leftover chicken, hardboiled eggs, and some leftover meatballs
- Nuts: almonds, cashews and pistachios are my kid’s favorites
- Smoothies—We probably make a smoothie 4-5 times a week in our house. We use a variety of frozen fruit, unsweetened protein powder , bananas, plain yogurt and water. The children love them! In the summertime, we also pour our smoothies into plastic popsicle molds and make our own healthy popsicles.
- An antipasto platter of olives, sliced mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and grapes
- Tuna, salmon or chicken salad (We don’t eat much tuna anymore, as we prefer salmon for health reasons. Here’s how you can find wild caught, canned salmon. I make my own homemade mayo without sugar every week, and use it for all sorts of things, including meat salads. I use this recipe and omit the honey.
- A piece of leftover fritatta from breakfast
- Steamed broccoli with a baked red potato topped with lots of butter
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- What do I eat on a sugar free diet?
- What’s a food “treat” on a sugar free diet?
- A recipe for my sugar free, flour free birthday cake
Struggling with a sugar addiction?
If you have a painful, compulsive relationship with sugar, and want to unhook from painful sugar cravings, sugar binges, or an insatiable drive for sugar, I can help. I help help people heal the internal drive for sugar so that they can follow through on their desire to eat a low or no sugar diet.
There’s a way to heal your sugar obsession so you’re no longer compulsively eating or bingeing on it – but the answer isn’t what you think. It’s not found in a perfect diet, will power, self control, behavior modification or even a sugar abstinence.
You heal a sugar compulsion by softening the heart, building emotional tolerance, by feeling cravings more, not less; through emotional honesty, and by healing the inner dynamics that drive the impulse to binge on sugar in the first place.
If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to join me for my 30 day sugar detox program, The 30 Day Lift. In this gentle, compassion based program, you’ll get 30 days of audio coaching to transition into a low or no sugar diet and bonus, live Q&A calls with me. Class starts August 1st. Learn more and sign up here.
You can also learn more about my approach to healing the emotional roots of a sugar addiction by reading these posts here: