Children are home for the summer, and keeping the pantry filled with healthy snacks takes commitment on the part of parents. It's easy to stock packaged cookies and chips, but those items often contain a lot of preservatives and sodium.
Dr. Laura Trice, author of The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook (Running Press, $17.95), can help. She set out to prove that with careful planning and wholesome ingredients, she could make cookies that taste great and are nutritious. She created the "Bite-lette" cookie, which is sold at Whole Foods Markets, and she used the same methods to create other desserts and snacks.
Her recipes use un processed sea salt instead of conventional table salt; wholesome sweeteners, like dates, fruit and whole evaporated cane juice instead of white sugar and corn syrup; and higher-quality fats and oils instead of hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Trice said these premium ingredients give the same or better taste and will be healthier because they are less refined.
"Companies have replaced nature's own ingredients with highly processed products and chemicals to reduce costs, extend shelf life and raise profits," she said. "Excessive salt, sugar and preservatives are added to replace taste that is lost when using lower-quality ingredients."
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Excessive salt in snack foods is a concern for Robin Miller, author of Robin to the Rescue and Quick & Simple Recipes for Delicious Home Cooking. She now is a spokeswoman for Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend, which is salt-free.
If you must reach for packaged snacks, Miller recommends reading labels. "There are lots of low- sodium products on the market. Seek those first," Miller said in a phone interview.
Cheese and milk are often the preferred foods for between-meal snacks, and Miller suggests checking closely the dairy products in your refrigerator. Many are high in sodium and fat. One-half cup of cottage cheese has almost 500 milligrams of sodium, Miller said.
Planning is the key to providing healthy snacks for youngsters. Always keep healthy beverages, such as water, juice and soy milk, and homemade snacks on hand.
Here are some quick snack ideas from Cooking Light, Eating Well and Real Simple magazines.
■ "Cocoa-nut" bananas: Slice bananas diagonally, then roll them in cocoa, shake off the excess, and dip them in toasted unsweetened coconut.
■ Gorp: Combine equal amounts of whole almonds, unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, dried cranberries and chopped pitted dates.
■ Mini rice-cake stack: Sandwich natural peanut butter and a slice of banana between two mini apple-cinnamon rice cakes.
■ Quick kebabs: Thread cubes of roasted deli turkey, cheddar cheese, grapes and dried apricots onto a wooden skewer.
■ Sesame carrots: Toss 2 cups baby carrots with 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds and a pinch each of dried thyme and kosher salt.
■ Spicy energy mix: Combine dates, dried mango, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and prepared spice rub.
■ Strawberries dipped in chocolate: Dip seasonal fruit in high-quality dark chocolate that you have melted over barely simmering water or in the microwave.
■ Turkey roll-ups: Spread slices of deli turkey breast with honey mustard or mango chutney, and season with freshly ground pepper. Wrap turkey around bread sticks.
■ Edamame: Grab a handful of frozen shelled soybeans and run them under steaming-hot water for a quick thaw. For a tangy twist, add a spritz of lemon.
■ Quick bean dip: Combine 1 cup fat-free vegetarian refried beans with ½ to 1 cup salsa.