Snack Makeover: 5 Healthy and Cheap DIY Snacks

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Written on 6/17/2008 by Garrett Whelan who writes about cooking for men or anyone trying to kick the fast food habit at FatBastardEats.com.

 

I was at my brother’s house this week with his 2 kids and I noticed something disturbing. 90% of what this family eats comes from a box or a restaurant. There’s nothing wrong with convenience per se, but it seems so unnecessary, expensive and simply unhealthy.

In 15 minutes per week, you could prepare most of these things at half the cost. Making them yourself also allows you near-total control of what you and your children eat. Have you ever looked at the sodium content of snacks out there today? Kids get 3 times the recommended daily allowance of sodium before noon!

The true cost of packing up these snacks yourself seems to be in the time and effort, which many people treat like a very precious commodity. If you can spare a few minutes each day in an effort to push some healthy foods down your kids throats, you can be on your way to saving money at the grocery store and at the doctor’s office as little Johnny becomes healthier.

Here are 5 easy ways that you can get moving in the right direction and I challenge you to open your pantry or cabinets and identify other ways you can whip up some Do-it-Yourself magic and come up with healthy alternatives to your snacks.

Kids Snacks
I’ve priced it out and buying a tub of pretzels and parceling them into snack bags is literally 3 times cheaper than buying the individual bags. No coupon in the world will save you what 20 minutes will.

If that weren’t enough of an incentive, this also allows you to customize your kids snacks too. Make Chex Mix without the sugar, take the raisins out of the trail mix since your kid doesn’t eat them, etc. Perhaps the best part is these snacks last just as long when you pack them up yourself as they do in their individual packs.

Rice Crispy Treats
Yes I know pre-made rice crispy bars are awesome and while no one eats them for their health benefits, have you looked at sodium content? Wow.

If you make them yourself and keep them in Ziploc bags, they taste better, last just as long, and have much less sodium. As a bonus you can substitute brown puffed rice so you actually get a little fiber.

Microwave Popcorn
Regular microwave popcorn costs about $1 a bag. Bulk popcorn costs about a nickel a bag. There isn’t even a choice here. All you have to do is drop a 1/4 cup of kernels in a paper bag with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Then staple the bag shut and microwave it just the same as you would any other bag of popcorn (no, the staples will not cause sparks if your microwave was built after 1986). Cheap, fast, and 0 cholesterol or artificial flavors.

Fruit Cup
Tupperware and similar sealed container companies have been striding forward at a remarkable pace; especially in the area of smaller containers. There’s no reason you have to buy pre-fab fruit cups anymore. Dicing your own fruit means your kid isn’t drinking down the high fructose syrup that most fruit is packed in.

DIY fruit cups last about a week so you can do up a batch Sunday night and you’re good for school. If you’re using apples or some fruit that browns, just sprinkle in a little lime juice.

Yogurt
Have you seen how much sugar is in yogurt these days? My nephew’s literally, I’m not making this up, had M&Ms in it. I found that interesting since my sister-in-law is one of those semi-self-righteous moms who would never let her kid eat a candy bar.

The same little Tupperware that worked for fruit cups can be filled from a tub of vanilla yogurt with the exact amount of fresh fruit, jam and honey you want your kid to eat (yogurt, strawberries and honey is the best thing ever). If not, you may as well give the kid a candy bar – the sugar levels are nearly the same!

Packing your own food for your family has a ton of advantages. It’s cheaper, healthier and it gives you total control over what you eat. As I showed here, it’s also pretty easy. A hidden value to all of this is that your kids will actually see what you’re doing and learn healthy habits early in life.

If everything they eat comes shrink-wrapped, zip-topped and in individually wrapped portions, how will they ever learn to cook for themselves? How will they even understand the concept?

-Garrett

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