My kids are always eyeing junk like Fruit By The Foot and similar snacks. I consider those close to candy, with perhaps a touch of fruit in them, although it’s really hard to tell. I’d far rather make homemade fruit leather for them and control my ingredients.
Lucky me, I inherited my grandmother’s dehydrator and a recipe book to go with it. Things like fruit leather are very possible for me.
You don’t have to have a dehydrator to make fruit leather, although it does make it easier. Just set your oven to its lowest possible temperature. You can make it work.
3 cups chopped fruit (have fun, mix it up!)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup water as necessary
sugar or honey to taste if necessary (not always)
Preheat oven to its lowest setting or check settings on your dehydrator. Line trays or baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.
Puree fruit with lemon juice thoroughly, adding water if necessary. Check for sweetness and add sugar or honey to taste. Pour onto prepared trays and place in oven or dehydrator. Allow to dry for 6-8 hours or until the center is no longer sticky. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
Cut into sections. See how fast kids snag fruit leather, then prepare any remains for storage. Roll up extras in pieces of parchment paper and store in an airtight container. These should be good for about a month, if the kids let them last that long.
Many recipes call for boiling the fruit for 10-15 minutes first to soften it, and you can do that if you like. With my blender, things turn out just fine without that step.
For those without nut allergies, apples with peanut butter are an easy, healthy snack. Slice up an apple, spread on peanut butter, have happy kids. Some healthy snacks really are that easy.
If you are dealing with nut allergies, look at your alternatives. Is there another spread that would taste good with apple and be safe?
Who says your kids can’t play with their food? Give them some sliced veggies and encourage them to make fun designs. Peanut butter or another dip can be used to help things stick together. Toothpicks can also be used if they want their art to stand up.
Not all veggies have to be sliced for this, of course. Cherry tomatoes are generally best left whole, as are snap peas.
Think about different ways to slice up the veggies. They don’t all need to be sticks. Offer carrot sticks as well as slices, for example.
My kids love chewy granola bars, but they’re expensive and have a lot of sugar. Homemade bars give you a lot more control over how much sugar is in them, although it’s still a fair amount. You can switch the add-ins for this recipe to make different types of granola bars. Consider adding chia seeds or flax seeds to make these even healthier.
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups quick oats
1 cup rice cereal or similar cereal
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup raisins
Line one 11×7 baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Lightly butter the foil.
Place coconut oil, brown sugar, honey and cinnamon in a large saucepan on medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, then decrease heat to low and simmer until the sugar is melted. This should take about two minutes, depending on your stove. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla extract and salt.
Add quick oats, rice cereal, flax meal and raisins. Mix until thoroughly coated. Spread evenly into your baking pan. Press firmly with a spatula or lightly buttered hand to even it out.
Let sit to cool. Do not refrigerate or the bars will get hard. Remove from pan and foil, and slice into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. These should last a couple weeks, depending on the ingredients you use, but hopefully the kids won’t let it come to that.
Here’s another fun way to serve fruit and yogurt to the kids – parfait style. Take yogurt (plain or pick a flavor the kids like), berries and/or sliced fruit, and granola. Layer them in a cup and serve.
If you want to make it a little more healthy, make your own granola. Most store bought varieties aren’t all that good for you, having too much fat and sugar.