Eimear Hutchinson: Healthy snack ideas for all the family

Does it feel like you are feeding your kids 867 times a day? Here Eimear Hutchinson shares advice on snack ideas and the joys of teaching your children how to bake
Eimear Hutchinson: Healthy snack ideas for all the family

Baking and cooking instils in children an understanding of how food is made and gives them a greater appreciation for food once it is served up, says Eimear.

I DON’T think there has ever been a time where the opportunity to be creative with food has been presented with such aplomb.

I know we have to feed our children the same number of times in the day as we did previously (although if your household is like mine, it’s as if they are used to being fed 867 times a day judging by the amount of times they ask), only now we have the time to be a little more imaginative about what we serve. And of course, with time comes the prospect of introducing our children to the joy and the skill of baking.

Many of us find ourselves having had to take on the role of primary educator lately but let’s not forget that baking is a really great way to teach your kids too. It encourages the use of oral skills as you talk through the recipe and the process, it instils in children an understanding of how food is made, and gives them a greater appreciation for food once it is served up.

We as parents can appreciate the opportunity too, for me it’s a great way to keep my mind engaged and motivated and gives me reason to be inventive during these strange times.

I am experimenting with making different types of bread using yeast, something that those of you who have baked with yeast before will be well aware is a pretty slow process that requires time and patience. So, it’s not only the children who can benefit from some isolation-style baking, it’s a great chance for us as parents to take on some new skills too. 

In our house I try and do a mix of baking that includes healthy snacks and downright treats. Some of the healthy options we fall back on include energy balls, breads and soups and some of the more indulgent recipes include cupcakes, flapjacks, cookies, brownies and muffins. I find Pinterest a great source of inspiration and the BBC Good Food website is another excellent resource for more down-to-earth food ideas.

A useful tip is to look first at the ingredients you have and Google recipe ideas based on what you already have to hand. There is nothing more frustrating than searching for some recipe inspiration only to constantly realise you are short one or two ingredients, especially now when we don’t have the luxury of being able to simply pop to the shops.

The biggest hit in our household over the last few weeks has undoubtedly been the sharing plates. It’s so simple, I put lots of snacks on one big plate in the middle of the table and let the girls pick away at what they like. Generally, I encourage them to have a bit of everything so that it’s a balanced meal, but in terms of the amount of food they eat they can self-regulate that between each other and there is rarely any food waste. It is worth noting it’s also a great exercise in getting children to share and deliberate amongst themselves what is fair in terms of who gets what.

I always put some veg, fruit, dairy, carbohydrate and a treat on the plate. The vegetables include carrot, cucumber, pepper or celery, fruit is often apple or pear slices, banana, grapes or strawberries, the carbohydrates, or starch, are bread sticks, brown bread or crackers that all go nicely with slices of cheese or soft cheese and finally by way of treat I put some dips in the middle either a hazelnut spread, humous or peanut butter.

I am taking this opportunity to try and jazz up what would generally be sandwiches if they were at school, not that there is anything wrong with them but by this stage in the article you’ve probably realised our day basically revolves around food! I have played around with a few ideas, but the same two requests keep coming in — pizza and spinach pancakes.

Now, in case you think I’m feeding my kids pizza every other day, I’m not, it’s a really simple recipe I spotted on Instagram on @liliforgerg account and the base involved two ingredients — water and flour. Look it up, it’s so simple and then you just pile it high with all the protein, veg and cheese you can find, delicious.

The spinach pancakes are also really simple, just add a few fistfuls of spinach to your favourite pancake recipe, cook as normal then add your fillings to one half of the pancake (ham, cheese, chorizo, salami, olives all favourites here) and fold over to melt the cheese: perfecto!

I really do believe this time at home is a wonderful opportunity to experience food in an old-fashioned way, go back to basics, be resourceful and create some food habits and skills we can all take into the future.

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