Tracy McArdle: Don't get me wrong: I love Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (and Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies) as much as the next guilt-ridden, time-crunched mom. And now they come in so many flavors, too. But if you're like me and suffer from OGB (occasional Goldfish burnout) -- and you fantasize about your kids branching out from crunchy carb snacks to something ... well, a little more like real food -- here are some things I've tried, with varying degrees of success.
10 Ways to Go Beyond Goldfish
"Duh," you say.But have you tried chopping it into cubes, (pineapple, mango, kiwi, orange) or sprinkling it with cinnamon (apples, pears) or drizzling it with honey (provided your little one is over two)?There's also a great variety of pre-packaged dried fruits, even freeze-dried strawberries and blueberries from budget-friendly grocery stores like Trader Joe's.
I found that my kids are WAY more excited about the orange cheese sticks than the white ones. This is not because their palates are sophisticated enough to prefer Wisconsin Cheddar over string mozzarella.They also like the swirled, multi-colored ones.Cracker Barrel even sells their cheese in pre-cut squares, ideal for snacking.Or if all that packaging puts a damper on your recent Green-ification, slice your own cheese and store in tiny Tupperware containers. It's very exciting how small Tupperware can go.I hope you have cabinet space.
Yes, you can even get them pre-packaged into individual snack servings with Ranch dressing dip on the side (Earthbound Farms).I tried the Ranch Dressing trick at home with red, orange and yellow pepper strips, with limited success (I starved them for hours first).
I think celery is a tough one for little guys, but from age five on it can be a winner -- with the right filling.Try peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or in a weak moment, Nutella.
Individual packs come in six or four packs.Watch out for added sugar (high fructose corn syrup, yuck) and go for organic brands.I like Vermont Organic, which has traditional applesauce as well as varieties like cinnamon, peach, or berry.
You probably know this one, and if your kids hate milk like mine do, you depend on this as much as cheese for calcium.Just watch out for added sugars (I like Stonyfield's Yo' Kids and Yo' Baby, with 25 percent less sugar, so they say).And yes, I've recently caved to the squirtable kind (another packaging sin) because, let's face it, making healthy food fun for kids to eat is genius.
I've never been a fan of microwave popcorn, and I make mine the old-fashioned way -- on the stovetop with olive oil and salt.The kids love it, and so, inexplicably, does the cat.
Craisins & raisins
Simple, easy finger food.Trader Joe's also offers a dried mixed berry product with strawberries and other delectable members of the anti-oxidant family.
Nuts & seeds
Believe it or not, my three-year-old developed snack envy when he saw me munching on raw almonds, sunflower seeds and walnuts as a healthy, natural alternative to, oh,I don't know, the 4 o'clock Oreo binge.Obviously, this is not for those with nut allergies or fear of nut allergies.Chop them up small and make trail mix with raisins, craisins and dried fruit cubes.
Granola & cereal bars
The Chewy, 90 calorie individually wrapped ones from Quaker are good, and my two-year-old loves cereal bars with the soft fruity center.Kashi makes good ones.
But don't call it edamame.Magic Green Buttons, with a bit of salt, are much more easier to eat.Most grocers stock them in the produce section, ready to heat and eat.