Healthy no-bake energy bites that tastes like a treat!
Apparently I’m well on my way to becoming “that (Nutritionist) mom.” You see, Demi and I both celebrated birthdays in the last few days and I opted to make some nutritious (but still very fun and tasty!) energy bites for her treat at preschool.
Now, before you go feeling really bad for her (because everyone always seems to!), she’s had cake multiple times over the course of her many celebrations. And pizza. And tacos. And lots of balloons. But toddlers can only be taken advantage of for so long, so if they’ll enjoy healthy bites as much as they would cupcakes, then I’ll definitely take advantage.
These no-bake energy bites are a nutritious mixture of oats, coconut, wheat germ (or flax meal) and peanut butter but taste like dessert from a touch of honey and some chocolate chips. I even added sprinkles to make them look extra-special. (See! I’m not THAT bad!) And Demi definitely approved. After I gave her one to try, she asked for “Mo cupcake.” WIN!
The recipe is from a great book called Super Snacks for Super Kids (affiliate link) by Sarah Fox, MD and Julie Stephenson. I met Sarah years ago and have always admired her ability to juggle a busy work schedule, raise three kids, and volunteer so much of her time to ensure that the families in her community are healthy. Which is precisely how this book came about. After feeling frustrated with the junk food that was served for snacks at her daughter’s school, Sarah and Julie partnered to come up with a cookbook for the families in their community. The book is filled with nutritious snacks – all kid-tested and approved. They’ve even used all of the proceeds of the book sales to benefit wellness efforts in their school district – over $25,000 so far! (Amazing!)
If you find yourself in a snack or meal rut, you’ll find some great inspiration to include more whole grains, more fruits and more vegetables – with easy recipes that don’t require a trip to a speciality store. The book is available on amazon, and at a discounted price for school/nonprofit fundraisers if you contact them directly.
I also took the opportunity to ask Sarah (she’s a family Doctor) about meal times at her house, how to boost immunity (cold season, OY!) and her thoughts on screen time. I LOVE her responses – there is SO much good advice!
What do dinners look like at your house?
I’m thankfully past the picky stages for all 3 of my kids (they’re 12, 10 and 7), so dinnertime now is quite pleasant! My middle child went through a long stage of pickiness, and I learned over time that mealtime is not the time to win that battle. Most kids will have a picky stage between ages 1 and 5, and the best thing to do is to continue to offer healthy foods, without any pressure to try or like those foods. My favorite thing to say when he was about 2-4 was, “this is what we’re having. You don’t have to eat if you’re not hungry. The next meal is breakfast.” Sometimes he just needed the space to try something new without pressure. We don’t force them to try anything, and we make sure that they know that if they’re not hungry, they shouldn’t eat.
Now we can offer a wide variety of foods, even new foods, and they all will at least try it, even without prompting. The other night we made roasted sweet potatoes, farro with spinach, and a chicken broccoli saute, and all three kids gave me compliments on how good it was. We love salmon and other seafood, and have salads with most dinners. We sit down as a family for dinner most nights of the week (when it’s not soccer season!), and the kids help with food prep and setting and clearing the table. When they were little, we had to work hard to make this happen, but now we can see the payoff and all of the effort was worth it!
What is your favorite tip for raising healthy eaters?
I think getting them involved is the most important thing. As much as you can, have them chopping vegetables, making salads, picking out recipes, grocery shopping, getting produce from the farmer’s market, and, if at all possible, gardening. One of the projects we funded with the money we raised with the book was a large elementary school garden, because gardening has so many benefits for future eating habits. The more involvement they have, the less anxiety they’ll feel about trying new foods when they’re on the plate. Second favorite tip: I made up a rule when my kids were little, “Snacks are fruits and vegetables.” So when they come home from school hungry for a snack, they’ll go for apples, cucumbers, carrots, or whatever they can find in the produce drawer. I don’t care at all if they fill up before dinner because they’re eating all the stuff I want them to eat!
Are there any secrets to boost immunity? It feels like we get sick every other week.
It helps to have a healthy diet (and extra vitamin D for those of us not blessed by California sunshine!), but even kids who are getting good nutrition will get 8-10 colds per year, clustered in the winter months, and more if they’re in daycare. So they’re basically constantly sick! The good news is that if they get exposure while they’re young, by the time they are school age, they tend to miss less school for illnesses. It’s delayed gratification for sure…
Tell us the truth about screen time!
Ooh, this is a tough one. The official recommendation is no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for children, and none before age two. I think the “none” part is really hard to do- as much as possible, though, when they’re young, make sure that their screen time is interactive with the people around them- respond to what they’re watching or ask them to show you something, or dance along to music playing, etc. We started a no-TV during the week rule a few years ago, and it makes school nights much easier. There are some kids that are especially drawn to screens and would spend all day looking at a computer screen. I think setting firm limits and sticking with them is the best thing in the long run. And for sure avoiding screen time in the two hours before bed is a must (for adults and children!) for improving sleep quality.
Thank you, Sarah and Julie! Your dedication to promoting health and wellness in your community is truly inspiring.
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- ½ cup peanut butter
- ½ cup flax meal or wheat germ
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until well combined.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes. (I found that freezing it for a few hours made rolling the balls much easier!)
- Roll dough into about 24 one-inch balls.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.