“What’s for snack?” is the first thing Jumpy (5) says every single day without fail when I pick her up from school.
I love good, healthy food for my family. My four children, aged 4, 5, 7 and 10, go from ‘best eaters’ to ‘fussiest children in the world’ in the blink of an eye. Feeding them can be a challenge at times but encouraging them to eat well is worth the effort in the long run.
They each have an allocated evening when they cook dinner with me. I have found it really helped them be more adventurous with new flavours and textures. They’re much more likely to try something if they know exactly what’s gone in the pan!
My four need a snack mid-morning and an other one mid-afternoon. It’s obvious from their behaviour when they get hungry (hangry?). I’m exactly the same and turn into some sort of evil creature when I’m hungry, so I don’t blame them. I’m always looking to feed them quick and easy healthy snacks that are also nutritious; something that will top them up until the next meal.
No matter how well they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, busy toddlers and growing children need snacks between meals. Their small tummies are not quite big enough to gain enough energy and nutrients from three meals, so a healthy snack between meals gives them the perfect energy boost.
I’m forever running like a headless chicken and I don’t manage to make snacks from scratch as often as I’d like to so I tend to buy snacks when we’re on the go. Finding healthy options isn’t always easy when you’re out and about so I always stick to brands I trust.
As an ambassador for Organix, one of our favourite brands, I was invited to their offices with Beanie a few months ago so we could meet experts in the industry, try their exciting new foods and chat about #FoodYouCanTrust. The campaign, recently launched by Organix, is all about helping parents make informed decisions about what they buy in the supermarket and when out and about to feed their little ones.
It was a ‘bring your child to work’ kind of day, and Beanie was so happy to be on holidays at the time so she could come with me and try all the goodies available at Organix HQ. We’d had a wonderful journey by train and a glorious afternoon on the beach in Bournemouth the previous day, then we’d walked to The Green House Hotel, where we’d spend the night. We’d relaxed, made the most of the roll top bath and painted our nails before our 3-course gourmet dinner with lovely Molly from ‘Mother’s Always Right‘ and her girls at Arbor Restaurant.
Our day at Organix HQ started with an informal chat and what always strikes me with the organic brand is they’re not solely focusing on promoting their own business, but aiming to set higher standards for the whole industry.
As Food Development Manager Emily Day explained to us, it is important to Organix to lead the way, review their food against standards every year and create new products that appeal to parents and taste great to children. The baby food aisle has changed a lot over the years and there’s been an influx of new foods. At the moment, there are big concerns over the amount of salt added to children’s food, so Emily decided to show us exactly how they develop food at Organix. It was fascinating!
How do Organix develop their new products?
Emily explained the whole process to us. Organix have a 3-year rolling plan. It always starts with an exploration phase, with trials and questions such as, “How could make that?” and it takes about two and a half years from idea to retail.
Organix only ever consider organic ingredients. The simpler the recipe, the better, and the nutritional value of the finished product is at the heart of recipe creation for Organix.
The focus for Emily and her team is to create new snacks for little ones, not get inspired by a popular adult snack and turn it into a child’s version.
Shape is another element the team take into consideration. Bars, small pieces and hoops are popular options when it comes to snack shapes so that’s all part of the food development process.
What exactly is in Organix snacks?
Let’s just have a look at the new goodies created by Emily and her team:
The new Cheesy Pea Snacks contain 4 ingredients: 65% dried peas, corn, powdered cheese and a little bit of oil. That is it. Nothing else. These pea snacks contain fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as a small amount of iron. In other words, they have a nutritional value rather than being nothing but carbs.
The Cheese and Onion Lentil Hoops also contain a high proportion of lentil, together with corn to make them puffy. They are baked, not fried and onion powder gives them a stronger taste but absolutely nothing unnecessary is added in. Since the snack contain a high proportion of lentil, they are higher in protein than a lot of children’s snacks, and therefore will help keep them fuller for longer.
The new fruit and seed bites are made with organic dates, prunes, seeds, vanilla and rice flour (just to stop them sticking together). They then have an extra ingredient or two added to the mix to create three varieties: dried banana, coconut or cocoa and vanilla.
What do babies and toddlers need food-wise?
Dr. Frankie Phillips, mum of four and Nutrition Advisor for Organix, told us all about what makes a good snack. She also highlighted the importance of good nutrition for young children, and why added salt is not needed.
For the first six months or so, babies get everything they need though the milk they drink. When weaning, you have to start introducing iron, protein, etc. through the food they eat. Until the age of one, babies don’t need snacks per say, since they are still having milk throughout the day as well as regular meals. However, different shapes and textures help with their hand-eye coordination and are great for their development.
Over one, snacking is important. A toddler’s stomach is very small. Nutrients in a meal might not keep them satisfied until the next meal and getting all the nutrients they need in only three meals is nearly impossible.
Why are Organix concerned about salt content in snacks made by other brands?
When they looked at the ingredients lists in some products in the toddler and baby aisle, they realised there were issues around salt content.
What to look out for?
Nutritional value is crucial. A good snack ideally will give your little one energy, but also have a good nutritional value. When you look at ingredients lists, focus on protein, fibre, a low amount of salt and fat. The percentages of saturated fat and salt are what I look at first.
There is more and more talk about free sugar content (refined sugar, honey, blended fruit etc.), salt, saturated fat and a lack of fibre in a lot of snacks for young children.
Should I ban salt altogether?
We do need sodium because our bodies are mostly liquid (e.g. breastmilk contains sodium), but if we have too much salt, the way our kidneys function can be affected. Too much salt can also have a negative impact on blood pressure.
In processed foods, salt and sugar are mostly used to mask the taste of food and give it a more pleasant flavour. You don’t actually need the enhancement and can retrain your taste buds to appreciate food as it is.
We do need sodium and it comes with food we’re eating (cheese or meat for example). You don’t need to add it. Three quarters of salt we eat comes from the processed food we eat (bread, cereal etc.).
Snacks vs. Treats
Snacks are needed to keep a toddler and growing child satisfied until the next meal, twice a day.
Treats are for special occasions and can be given two to three times a week within a healthy diet.
It’s not about banning everything and going sugar-free, salt-free, treat-free, enjoyment-free. No food is out of the equation, nothing is really forbidden in my house, but it’s really clear to my children that treats are not everyday foods.
Exposing children to different flavours is important and always remember that it might take 13 or 14 attempts before they enjoy the new food or flavour. Increasing exposure will help opening up opportunities to try new flavours and textures. Widening your repertoire of food can also ensure you’re more likely to achieve nutritional balance.
I sometimes get stuck when packing healthy snacks for school for my older two. What are your children’s favourite snacks? Let me know in the comments section!
Disclosure: I work with Organix as a No Junk Mum. This post is part of the #FoodYouCanTrust campaign. All opinions are my own. Photos were taken on behalf of Organix, unless they are watermarked with my logo.