Healthy Alternatives to Kids Junk Food for the Outdoors
We all want the best for our kids and a family day outdoors usually rhymes with good health. Indeed, the Healthy Parks Healthy People movement shows that parks are an outlet for healthy lifestyles and part of global initiatives to combat childhood obesity, rising healthcare costs, and other lifestyle-related challenges. Closer to kids, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative positions eating healthy on par with getting active to raise a healthier generation of kids. That’s how important healthy nutrition is. Why then does nutrition often take a back seat in planning a day outdoors? It’s a real paradox.
I usually spend hours thinking about activities, what to pack and the best spots, but food often comes as an afterthought. Reading on nutrition made me think about healthy alternatives to kids junk food for the outdoors. Though I’m no nutritionist, I’m a mother who wants her girls to be healthy and I’d rather be prepared than buy chips at the train station.
Here, you will find healthy substitutes to a few outdoor favorites (you can click directly to jump to the food item or simply scroll down):
Healthy Alternatives to Potato Chips
The standard serving size for potato chips is 13 to 16 chips (1 oz/28g), contains roughly 120-160 calories and accounts for 6% of your daily sodium needs.
In the dry and salty snack department, healthier alternatives to potato chips include:
Rice cakes. Rice cakes are usually made with brown rice, are fat free and low in sugar and calories. Proving a satisfying crunch, they don’t provide much else in terms of nutrition and can be “enhanced” with other ingredients. Read the label for added ingredients.
Veggie chips. Of course not all veggie chips are healthy choices but kale chips, in particular, are a good source of vitamin C and are low in fat and calories. Look for baked vegetable chips low in sodium.
Healthy Alternatives to Salted Peanuts
One ounce, or 28 grams, of raw peanuts (roughly 33 individual nuts) typically makes up a single serving and has 161 calories. Oil-roasted peanuts may be higher in calories, while boiling and dry roasting tends to reduce the calorie count of peanuts.
If you can’t live without your nuts, here are a few healthy alternatives.
Almonds. Raw almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, are gluten-free and rich in monounsaturated fatty acides. They are the epitome of the Mediterranean diet.
Walnuts. Like almonds, walnuts are rich in vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids but they are also a good source of omega 3. Don’t like cod liver oil? A handful of walnuts a day will bring 90% of your daily recommended dose of omega 3.
Pumpkin seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas are not nuts but when roasted, they have a slightly nutty flavor and are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. They are also a good source of protein and zinc. The best part? They can be roasted 15-20 minutes at home if you’ve used a pumpkin in your cooking and saved the seeds.
Healthy Alternatives to Candy
While a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, a bagful of skittles or gummy bears is way too much sugar. Jamie Oliver has investigated sugar’s huge contribution to type 2 diabetes and obesity and it’s not pretty. If you are trying to cut down on sugar on your days out, offer a fresh fruit option that’s easy to pop and tasty.
Small, healthy and satisfying to eat on the go, these fresh fruit or small veggies are great snacks to eat right out of the bag.
Strawberries. Low in sugar (the riper, the sweeter), strawberries are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Some would even recommend dark chocolate-covered strawberries as a good source of antioxydants and flavanoids, but be reasonable in your quantities.
Blueberries. Also rich in antioxydants, blueberries are the ultimate after-school finger snack and are super easy to pack for days outdoors. Fresh berries carry small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E. Best of all, they survive remarkably well at room temperature in a box.
Cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are the best snack there is to curb a crave on the trail. Rich in protein, vitamin C and fiber, cherry tomatoes also contain lycopene (antioxydant) and no fat. In the summer, you can pick from many varieties to offer seasonal sweetness and different shapes and tastes. How’s that for a winner snack?
Healthy Alternatives to S’mores
Arguably the most popular of summer foods for camping trips, s’mores are not exactly the healthiest food choice for kids. Can there ever be a healthy substitute that works for all families?
When The White House published an official healthy strawberry and yogurt s’mores recipe, it was an epic fail because too messy and not practical. Fortunately for families, food bloggers have given s’mores a thought or two. Here are four fun and healthy alternatives that you can try.
Grilled banana boats. If your kids like bananas, this is the ultimate pocket banana recipe. Blogger What you make it by Coley offers an illustrated step-by-step recipe for this popular snack.
Nutella Raspberry S’mores. I’m not sure this is much healthier than regular s’mores but it’s got raspberries, therefore it’s an upgrade. You can find the yummy recipe at PBS Kitchen Explorers.
S’more Brownies by Greatist. This recipe is on Lulu Lemon’s blog and it says that it’s a healthier s’more and looking at the ingredients, it does look that way. Whole wheat flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, applesauce – this isn’t your regular s’more!
Banana mores. Perhaps the closest recipe in spirit to the sandwich-like s’more, the banana more calls for fire-roasted bananas squished between graham crackers as a substitute to marshmallows. You can find the recipe at tetonalchemy.com.
Healthy Alternatives to Granola Bars or Cookies
In theory, granola bars should be a healthy choice as they’re full of cereals, dried nuts and fruit. The problem is, commercial granola bars are also crammed with chocolate, marshmallows, artificial flavorings and sugar. In fact, the first ingredient in many granola bars is often sugar. Where’s the health in that? When health officials dub granola bars “cookies masquerading as health food,” you’ve got to wonder. Are there healthy substitutes to granola bars and cookies?
The obvious answer is going to be homemade. You can make delicious and nutritious granola bars at home, or you can make homemade trail mix with roughly the same ingredients. Try these.
Pumpkin Seed Dried Cherry Trail Mix. With only 5 ingredients, this trail mix uses maple syrup as a sweetener, one of my fave sweeteners and one whose health benefits are becoming wider known. Find the recipe on the FoodNetwork.
Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter KIND Bars. The KIND bars with chocolate and peanut butter have something of a cult following in the world of cereal bars but now, you don’t even have to buy them. You can make them for a fraction of the price and revel in the fact that you’re using only natural ingredients. You can find the recipe at Flavor the Moments.
No Bake Chewy Granola Bars. This recipe uses ancient grain cereals for some extra crunch and peanut butter and honey as a “glue.” The key is to press the mixture firmly before refrigerating it and it will hold together. Find the recipe at My Recipes.
Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars with Coconut Oil. For a coconut oil superfood granola bar, this recipe at Five Heart Home packs a lot of good stuff for a bar that you can refrigerate. Both this recipe and the one before make granola bars that are better eaten cold than warm. Make sure to pack them with an ice pack when you go out.
Healhy Alternatives to Hot Dogs and Sausages
It’s too bad hot dogs and sausages are so good (but not for your nutrition). A typical dog is highly processed and may contain low-quality meats and oodles of preservatives. Nitrates are often used to enhance color and increase shelf-life. Classic hot dogs may be made of pork or beef (or both). They contain about 150 to 180 calories per link. Where it gets really ugly is the fat and sodium. One link has (on average) 14 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 400 to 500 milligrams of sodium, or nearly 20 percent of the daily recommendation.
If you want to grill food on a stick, try these.
Pineapple. Pineapple is a great campfire food as heat caramelizes this exotic fruit, making it a delicious addition to many meals. You can simply cube the pineapple, skewer a few cubes on a stick and place over the fire during 3 to 5 minutes. For an extra indulgence, you can add a small slice of bacon but don’t tell anyone.
Peppers. With a little sweetness and a little bitterness, peppers (red and yellow for extra sweetness) are the perfect food-on-a-stick for a healthy and hearty dinner. Just like you would for tomatoes, rub sliced peppers in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a stick over the fire.
Tofu. Don’t forget your proteins! If you think of tofu as bland food, think again. There are many yummy ways to marinate tofu and extra firm tofu grills very well on a stick. You can grill your tofu seasoned with mustard and bread crumbs, with coriander and lime, or Hawaiian style with a pineapple juice marinade. You can also make This Mama Cooks!’ tofu kebabs and call it a balanced meal. Tofu power!
For more inspiration on nutrition for kids, check out:
- Find the Letter N is for Nutrition from 3 Boys and a Dog
- Make a Fun Food Dinosaur from Pears from Brain Power Boy
- How to Reduce Sugar Intake in Kids from Kara Carrero
- Growing Vegetable Soup Inspired Nutrition Activity from Pre-K Pages
- Grocery Shopping Activity from Sunny Day Family
- Healthy Meal Planning with Kids from Schooling a Monkey
- Nutrition App from iGameMom
- Healthy Nutrition Books for Kids from The Jenny Evolution
- Kids Nutrition Activities with Free Printables from Natural Beach Living
- Mud Kitchen with Stone Veggies from Parenting Chaos
- Kid’s Books about Gardening from Our Daily Craft
- Healthy Food Group Worksheets from Living Life and Learning
- Nutritional and Fun Snacks for Kids: Paw Patrol Themed Badge from Crafty Mama in ME
- Vegetable Beginning Sound Clip Cards from Simple Fun for Kids
- Bubble Wrap Painted Fruit & Veggie Puppets from Play Dough & Popsicles