Nutrition

17 Ideas for Easy, Kid-Friendly, Healthy Snacks (with Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Paleo Options)

17 Easy Kid-Friendly Snack Ideas


My group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama® Club, has a weekly Meal Planning Monday thread, and most people focus on dinners for the week. Totally valid, since decision fatigue kicks in and that's the meal that takes the most planning and coordination.

But for most of us with limited child-care options and closed schools for the last few months, and summer kicking off, snacks become the bane of our existence. Or you AND your kids are bored of the usual suspects.

via GIPHY

If you missed it, I last posted 17 ideas for breakfast, and then 17 ideas for dinner, and now here are some ideas for snacks! Use them as a jumping off point, and substitute as needed. This is a simple list--you can even print the graphic out--and I'll add details, recipes, and dietary restriction advice in these posts.

We definitely have bags of snacky foods around, too, but I try to get less processed items into them as well.

None of them are earth-shaking, but if you're stuck in a rut, just one or two new ideas can help mix things up enough. I've linked a few recipes, but there's no right or wrong variation of these. Let me know which idea is your favorite or the most helpful!
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17 Easy Kid-Friendly Dinner Ideas (with Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Paleo Friendly Options)

17 Easy Kid-Friendly Dinner Ideas


Our weekly Meal Planning Monday post in my group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama® Club, has been a little slow lately. People said they're struggling to focus and plan ahead with so much uncertainty in the world.

I get it. We have definitely had more "scrounge in the fridge for whatever people will eat" nights than ever before. If you're in the same boat and just need a little nudge to get back on track, I made this list in the hope that you'll find some inspiration.

If you missed it, I last posted 17 ideas for breakfast. Here are 17 ideas for dinner, and next I'll post some snacks! Use them as a jumping off point, and substitute as needed. I have a simple list--you can even print the graphic out--and I'll add details, recipes, and dietary restriction advice in these posts.

I've linked a few recipes, but there's no right or wrong variation of these. Let me know which idea is your favorite or the most helpful!
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17 Easy Kid-Friendly Breakfast Ideas (with Vegan, Paleo, and Gluten-Free Options)

17 Breakfast Ideas

17 Breakfast Ideas


Every week in my group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama™ Club, we have a Meal Planning Monday post to share weekly menus, recipes, and other food inspiration.

Lately there hasn't been much engagement, so I asked why. Everyone said they're just too overwhelmed to even think about meal planning, grocery shopping is stressful, and it just feels like too much. But the whole point of meal planning is to AVOID feeling overwhelmed, because when you have to make decisions about what to eat (and feed your kids) multiple times per day, it's draining.

So I came up with 17 ideas for breakfast, snacks, and dinners to share with you for inspiration. Use them as a jumping off point, substitute as needed. I have a simple list--you can even print the graphic out--and I'll add details, recipes, and dietary restriction advice in these posts.

Hopefully this will save a few of your brain cells so you can use them for navigating sibling squabbles, or remembering what day it is. Let me know which idea is your favorite or the most helpful!

17 Easy Kid-Friendly Ideas for Breakfast

17 Easy Kid-Friendly Breakfast Ideas

Overnight oats

Make ahead! Easily made gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan. Already egg-free and vegetarian.
Most basic: Combine 1/2 cup oats, and 1/2 cup milk (or alternative) in a container and refrigerate overnight. That's it.
I use gluten-free oats and almond milk, add cinnamon, shredded coconut, and raisins.
Get fancy with chopped nuts, diced fruit, chia seeds, nut butter, or even cocoa powder.

Scrambled eggs and toast

Use gluten-free bread if needed.
Or eggs over easy. Whatever!
Can't have eggs or want to make it vegan? Use scrambled tofu.

Cereal

Many gluten-free/vegan options available.
Lazy but effective!

Chia pudding

Make ahead! Gluten-free, dairy-free unless you choose otherwise, vegan.
Similar to overnight oats, chia pudding is an easy make-ahead option that's slightly more hippie-dippy. The base is just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, 3/4 cup of almond milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Combine well and let stand for at least 15 minutes, but overnight is easier.

Here are 6 different ways to jazz up chia pudding. I like mine with fresh fruit.

Smoothies

Gluten-free, easily made dairy-free and vegan.
Smoothies aren't new, but have you made smoothie PACKS? Prepping smoothies ahead of time can be a game changer. Pack all your ingredients in a zip-top bag and toss it in the freezer. Bonus points for multiple bags. Then just grab one, dump the contents in the blender, add your choice of liquid, and you're set!

My favorite green smoothie is frozen mango, a peeled orange, a peeled lemon, 3 giant handfuls of leafy greens, almond or coconut milk, and I throw in a scoop of collagen (not vegan) and half an avocado if I have it.

My kids will only drink "pink" smoothies, so they like frozen cherries, strawberries, and mango in theirs.

Yogurt parfaits

Use non-dairy yogurt if needed, and not all granola is gluten-free.
Yogurt is an easy source of fat and protein, and adding granola and fresh fruit make it more filling, and more fancy! Serve in fancy bowls or jars if you need a little boost.

Bagels with cream cheese

We get gluten-free bagels and vegan cream cheese for one kiddo. We have not had luck finding GF vegan bagels ourselves (most contain eggs), but they do exist.
My oldest who needs a lot of sensory input does well with a chewy whole grain bagel in the morning, plus the fat in the cream cheese.

Avocado toast

Lots of options depending on the bread.
My oldest has recently discovered the wonders of avocado toast and loves it. I like that he will eat whole grain bread with healthy fats. Use gluten-free bread if needed. I love mine with salt and pepper, and a poached egg.

Some people like sprinkling theirs with chili powder and lime juice, or Everything But the Bagel seasoning. Make sure you add a dusting of salt to kick up the flavor.

Sweet potato hash

So many options. Gluten-free, easily vegan or vegetarian.
This is my current go-to breakfast since I can't eat eggs (the baby reacts to eggs, and she loves this, too). The way I make it is a little fussy, so adjust, or prep the night before.

I sauté 1/4 of a small onion and a handful of sliced mushrooms in an oiled cast iron skillet while I peel and dice a medium-large sweet potato. Smaller pieces cook faster. Add the sweet potato and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the sweet potato is starting to soften, I add diced chicken-apple sausage (omit if desired, or sub diced tofu, beans, or top with eggs at the end), broccoli florets or a pile of leafy greens, and a minced clove of garlic. I cover the pan to steam the sweet potatoes a bit. It's done when the sweet potatoes are fork-tender.

I top mine with a small scoop of vegan kale-cashew pesto, and a dollop of garlic spread, both from Trader Joe's. Salsa or hot sauce are also delicious toppings.

Bacon and hashbrowns

Check that your bacon is gluten-free if needed. Tempeh is a good vegan option!
This is my kids' current favorite. We get frozen potatoes and toss everything in the oven.

Muffins

Make ahead! So many choices for food restrictions!
Make a big batch and freeze, and it's a possible activity for your kids to help with. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Millet Muffins
Aussie Bites (Costco knock-off!)
Paleo GF Pumpkin Muffins
Anti-Inflammatory Coconut Sweet Potato Muffins (vegan, GF)

Waffles

Again! Options!
Trader Joe's has frozen gluten-free vegan waffles which my kids eat with jam. Or make a big batch and freeze your own. If you're one of the many people with a new sourdough starter, sourdough waffles are awesome.

Pancakes

We've used the paleo Birch Benders mix from Costco (though now I can't have it because it contains eggs), or it's easy to make your own. It's time consuming, so this is another one to make a double batch of, then reheat the next day (or freeze and toast).

Oatmeal with nuts and/or fruit

We get gluten-free oats, and my kids love adding cinnamon, raisins, and almond milk. One likes peanut butter an chia seeds; the other does not.

You can make chewier steel cut oats in the Instant Pot, or using this cheater stovetop method. Bring 3 cups of water and 1 cup of steel cut oats to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, cover, and turn off heat. Let stand overnight. In the morning, turn the burner on low to reheat, and serve warm.

Egg cups

Make ahead! The egg version is gluten-free and dairy-free. Vegetarian optional.
It's like muffins, but with eggs. They're basically mini quiches and you can customize the fillings for various preferences.

Here is a recipe for you.
And I found a vegan option for this one!

Omelets/egg scramble

Again, very customizable.
Here are two vegan omelet recipes:
This one uses silken tofu.
This one uses chickpea flour.

Or just use crumbled/diced tofu--or actual eggs--and sauté some veggies with them. Top with salsa or hot sauce and enjoy.

That's 17 ideas for you!

Let me know if you were inspired to make something new, or add more ideas in the comments. Join us in the Semi-Crunchy Mama™ Club for weekly inspiration and support.

Next up: 17 dinner ideas, then snacks...

How to Prevent Choking During Baby-Led Weaning

How to Avoid Choking During Baby Led Weaning

In my years of teaching classes on introducing solids with baby-led weaning I always go around the room and ask everyone to introduce themselves and to share what their biggest concern they’re hoping to learn about. Number one worry, far and away, is a fear of choking.

It just seems scary to give a tiny baby actual pieces of food, doesn’t it? Possibly even dangerous! So why choose baby-led weaning to start if they could choke?

How to Avoid Choking During Baby Led Weaning

As I cover in my class, there are a few parts to this concern.

First is the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a natural reflex that actually prevents choking because babies are designed to survive even first-time parents. Choking is the obstruction of the airway by (in this case) a piece of food. Gagging is scary, but not dangerous; choking is to be avoided if possible.

If you haven’t taken an infant CPR class, you may feel better taking one now. You can also do a little YouTube self-study which is better than nothing. I cover this more in my introducing solids course, but choking is silent while gagging is not. My mantra is, “If they’re coughing, they’re breathing.”

Is There an Increased Risk of Choking with Baby-Led Weaning?

A 2016 study in New Zealand followed over 200 babies as they started solids and found that 35% of the babies in the whole study had a choking incident during the period they observed. The percentage was across groups who started with purees or finger foods, because the issue was that a high percentage of the babies were offered foods that were choking hazards.

The best ways to prevent choking during baby-led weaning are:

  • wait until baby is physically ready to start solids, and
  • offer foods that are developmentally appropriate for your child

Babies can’t read calendars, so it’s important to watch their motor development to ensure they’re able to eat food and maintain their posture to prevent choking during baby-led weaning.

Signs of readiness include: baby can sit well without support, baby has lost their tongue thrust reflex, baby is bringing items to their mouth, baby is starting to develop a pincer grasp, and baby is eager to participate in meals.

As I mentioned, not feeding your baby choking hazards significantly reduces the risks! In the study I mentioned above, over a third of the choking incidents reported were due to raw apples. Learn from those parents’ mistakes!

Choking hazards during baby-led weaning include: raw apples, raw vegetables, unripe/hard fruit, citrus segments, whole nuts, popcorn, whole grapes, cherry tomatoes, hot dogs/sausages, food cut into coins, hard crackers/chips, hard/chewy candy

For more in-depth information, my Introducing Solids class covers the when, why, and how of starting foods with your baby, including breastfeeding and allergens.

Hundreds of parents have felt more confident and informed while approaching solid foods with their babies. You can, too!

Why We Chose Baby Led Weaning

Why We Chose Baby Led Weaning

How is your relationship with food? Do you get enough veggies? Do you stress eat? Are you a sugar addict?

This isn't to judge you - most of us struggle with food in some way or another. I'm not immune, either, I just have more tools than the average person.

After working with health coaching clients who still struggle after twenty or thirty years, when it came time to feed my son solids, I wanted to do it "right." Time for some research.

When most of us picture introducing solids, I'd imagine this is the image that comes to mind:

Eat What For Thanksgiving?

Most parents start their babies on solids waaaaaaaaaaay too early

Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids around 4 to 6 months. The American Association of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively formula or breastmilk until 6 months.

A 2013 study from the AAP showed that in a sample of over 1300 people, "40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before age 4 months. The most commonly cited reasons for early introduction of solid food were as follows: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”"

I started my son a little after 6 months (he had a cold so we waited until he wasn't congested). In retrospect I would have waited even longer. He was sitting up decently but didn't have a developed pincer grasp (ability to hold something between two fingertips). I was planning to offer a mix of purees and finger foods, but he threw up applesauce and I got tired of cleaning it up.

So we went with straight Baby Led Weaning (BLW). And I'm so glad we did.

Why Baby Led Weaning Was Best For Us

Stealing Mimi's apple at 8.5 months old
The "weaning" here is the British term. Americans tend to think of weaning for babies as "stopping breastmilk consumption" as opposed to "gradually reducing breastmilk consumption by introducing solids." So if you prefer the term "baby led solids," go for it.

Our decision came down to a few things:

    • I'm lazy. I was skeptical of commercial baby food but didn't really want to make my own. BLW meant we could offer the same (or very similar) foods to what we ate.
    • I have strong feelings about bodily autonomy for kids (and everyone), so giving my son control over how and what he ate held a lot of appeal.
    • In my coaching practice I've spent a lot of time helping clients re-learn how to listen to their own bodies, so it made sense to me to let my son tune into his own hunger signals instead of me trying to guess.
    • A major reason to start with purees is because babies push food out due to their tongue thrust reflex - their natural protection against choking. If you wait until their tongue thrust reflex is gone (a sign that they're developmentally ready to eat solid food), they can simply eat table food.
    • When you start with purees, babies learn to swallow first, then chew. With BLW they chew first, then learn to swallow. They'll eventually get chunky or finger foods, so why not just start there?

Now at 3 years old, my son eats a wide variety of foods. He loves fish, mushrooms, and seaweed just as much as macaroni and cheese. He eats chlorella tablets like they're candy. He also eats candy, but asks for a few pieces and then moves on.

Is it because of his personality, or because of how we introduced and offered food from the start? I don't know for sure, but there isn't much I'll change this fall when it comes time to start our second baby on solid food.

Want to know more?

If you're near San Diego with a baby around 3-9 months, I would love to see you at one of my monthly in-person classes in Hillcrest.

Doesn't work with your schedule or live too far away? Now you can now take the class anytime from anywhere!

The online version of Introducing Solids with Baby Led Weaning is ready to go. Just CLICK HERE for more information.

I would love to support you.

One Month of Meal Planning (Gluten-Free and Vegetarian)

One Month of Meal Planning

When I ran my January meal planning challenge, it was as much for me as for everyone else. I loved seeing what everyone else was making, what their goals were, and what changes they saw during the month.

At our house, our goal was to save time, energy, and money - plus try to use up some languishing pantry items stuffed in the mysterious depths of the cupboards or freezer. And we did! Sure there were a few days that we had to switch around due to life happening, but it was a relief to avoid the last minute decision making of what to make for dinner.

Overwhelmed at the prospect? I have an online meal planning workshop coming up. Or for more tips, check out my meal planning Pinterest board!

I only plan 4 dinners each week since we usually have enough for leftovers at least once, plus we have dinner at a friend's house most Thursdays. My husband works weekends and we often have activities, so I keep those nights open.

We also get a CSA (community supported agriculture) box of local veggies each Thursday at the farmers market, so we incorporate those as much as possible. We eat a little seafood at home, otherwise I'm vegetarian, and I'm currently not eating gluten, either.

Week 1

Polenta with Peppers and Mushrooms
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Casserole
Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza

Week 2

Chickpea and Mushroom Polenta (we didn't love this one)
Lentil and Hominy Chili
Gluten-Free Crispy Orange Cauliflower
BBQ Tempeh Tacos with Shredded Cabbage

Week 3

Black Bean Enchiladas
Wild Rice Soup
Cold Vietnamese Noodle Bowls
Grilled Veggies

Week 4

Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza
Black Bean Tacos
Vegetarian Chili with Gluten-Free Cornbread
Stir Fry

What are some of your go-to meals?

If your best meal planning intentions end up in a mess of recipes and guilty takeout, you're not alone. Join me from home (wear your PJs, I won't judge) and we'll cover strategies to finally get you started with my online meal planning workshop.