Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Food Allergy-Friendly Snacks: Fruit and Veg with Two Dips!

Sunflower fruit dip..tastes kind of like a caramel apple.
Back to school time has me thinking about healthy snacks and treats. And lately, I've had many reader questions about processed foods and which ones are safe for nut allergies. (See my previous post for some nut-free suggestions.)

However, with food labels largely inconsistent and requiring additional research (and processed foods filled with so many unwanted additions like chemicals and hydrogenated oils), it's easier and healthier for us to turn to simple, whole fresh foods for snacks and treats. But then there's that age-old parental question: how do you get kids to eat the good stuff?

In the toddler and preschool years, my way to encourage fruits and veggies was with dips and creative plating. Now, I'm no food stylist (and I've got the pictures to prove it) but it's amazing how a little "playing with their food" will encourage a kid to eat healthfully. The other thing that works wonders is dips and dunks for the fruits and veggies. Kids love to dip and dunk their food, so let 'em have at it with these two dip recipes I'm sharing here.

The fruit dip recipe that follows is based on one given to me by a book club friend--she used peanut butter. I replaced this with SunButter, but if that work for you, another really good dip is Greek yogurt with honey swirled in. Can't have dairy yogurt? I've seen more non-dairy yogurts popping up in my local grocery stores lately. One more thing about yogurt: I prefer Greek yogurt and it's pretty easy to find these days. If you can't find it or don't have it on hand, you can create a thicker, creamier yogurt by draining plain yogurt in a coffee filter set inside a strainer. Strain over a bowl in the fridge and discard liquid whey that collects on the bottom.

SunFlower Dip
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup SunButter sunflower seed spread (or to taste)
3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey, or sweetened to taste
For serving: crisp apples cut into slices.  Bananas are another good pairing
with this, but whatever fruit your child enjoys is great.
Whisk the first three ingredients together until fully combined. Spoon into the
middle of the plate or into a small ramekin (shown in the photo). Arrange the apple slices
around the dip in the center of the plate in a flower shape. Watch the fruit and dip disappear!
Cover any leftover portion of the dip; it will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

The following herb veggie dip is based on a Greek yogurt and cucumber dip my family loves. If your kids don't mind a little texture, some unseeded English cucumber grated into this dip is awesome! Even if you don't incorporate cukes into this, they are great served with the dip on the side. Use my recipe as a template depending on your child's palate and tastes. You are basically jazzing up plain yogurt so that it tastes more like ranch dressing--only healthier.

Herb Veggie Flower Dip

It's not Picasso on the plate, but it gets them eating their veggies!

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Minced garlic or garlic powder to taste
 (go easy on the garlic for younger palates)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 shredded cucumber, well drained (optional)
Fresh or dried dill
Fresh minced parsley (optional)
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and let sit for about half an hour in the refrigerator to let flavors develop. Serve with your child's favorite veggies, or if you are feeling energetic, arrange a celery stalk and baby carrots as show above. (Tip: Little kids seem to really like this presentation). Cover and refrigerator any leftover dip; it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

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