A few weeks ago on Instagram, I shared that I was purging our pantry of sugar, overly-processed snacks, and gluten. I almost hesitated to post it because I’m usually an “everything in moderation” kinda girl and am not a fan of extreme regimens around food. That said, it was pretty evident that junk food was causing some negative dynamics in our household, and — desperate times call for desperate measures.
So what, you might ask, were those negative patterns? Let me lay them out for ya (and please tell me I’m not the only one… seriously, I need support, haha.)
- Both Phoebe and Henry had been getting increasingly picky at dinner, barely eating, and then later saying they’re hungry for goldfish or popsicles.
- Candy/cookies/dessert have become major triggers for conflict — I’m constantly having to say “no,” and I’m over being the snacking police.
- Henry’s mood swings have been next-level crazy lately, and I was curious how much his blood sugar could be coming into play.
Okay, so now that you’ve got the WHY, I’m excited to share the full story of how we cleaned up our pantry, what we eliminated, and most importantly: what we added so that our kitchen feels like the nourishing and abundant family HQ that it should be.
I’ve gotten SO many DM’s from you guys asking what healthy snacks are our go-to’s now that we’ve eliminated so many of the obvious choices!
Our snacking intervention came at the perfect time for our first post with our friends at Simple Mills, whose baking mixes I’ve bought and loved for years and am so excited to team up with this fall. I am not a fan of anyone in our family feeling restricted (myself included), which means we’ve got to have delicious snacking options on hand that just so happen to be healthy, too — and Simple Mills’ new bars check all the boxes. But more on that in just a bit. Scroll on for the full breakdown on our pantry makeover.
Step 1: Eliminate processed sugar, junky snacks, and gluten from the pantry.
We gave them away or threw them out — the key here is that we got them out of the house. Y’all, my kids are smart. And when you combine that with being sugar fiends, it means that no matter how high up I put them or how cleverly I hide them, my kids will find them. And then, the same old battles ensue. By ditching all the bad stuff, it means that now I don’t have to try to keep them out of the pantry or constantly explain to them why this or that snack is not allowed right now because they already had a sweet today, etc. So much simpler, so much more peaceful.
Step 2: Create a DIY Snack Station.
One goal for me is for my kids to have more independence. I want them to be able to freely enter the pantry when they’re hungry and choose their own snack without me having to give it my seal of approval. The answer was to create a “Snack Bin” where every item in it is approved, any time. Phoebe and Henry felt like major big kids when I told them that when their tummies are hungry, they’re allowed to pull from the snack bin and choose their own snack. In addition to fresh whole fruit and bulk items (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut flakes, banana chips), we have a couple of individually-wrapped packaged snacks, but I’m super careful about what’s actually in them. It can be hard to find bars that aren’t full of junky ingredients and hidden sugars, so Simple Mills’ Almond Flour Soft Baked Bars have been a lifesaver.
For those of you who check ingredients lists, you’ll know how hard it is to find one that reads like this on a packaged bar:
Nut and Nut Flour Blend (almonds, organic coconut), Seed Blend (sunflower, flax, chia), Tapioca Starch, Honey, Bananas, Organic Coconut Oil, Molasses, Egg Whites, Raisin Juice Concentrate (for freshness), Sea Salt, Baking Soda, Organic Cinnamon, Rosemary Extract (for freshness.)
RIGHT? That’s the Nutty Banana Bread flavor, and it tastes, well, like banana bread straight out of the oven. Phoebe likes it for breakfast, and I like it for dessert. And in case you’ve got a food allergy or dietary restriction in your family, here’s what’s not in the bars: gluten, grains, soy, corn, dairy, anything artificial, or gums/emulsifiers, and they’re non-GMO.
The bars also come in Chunky Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Almond (YUM), and Spiced Carrot Cake. I stock up when I’m at Whole Foods.
Step 3: Get creative with simple and delicious snack solutions.
Other clean snacks my kids and I are loving these days?
Chocolate-dipped clementines are our current fave treats, and they’re so fun to make. Melt a little chocolate (since we’re cutting sugar, I’ve been getting chocolate chips sweetened with stevia) with coconut oil, then dip clementine slices halfway in the mixture. Lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to harden, then pop them in your mouth like candy.
Berries with nuts are a simple but crowd-pleasing snack we all love, and it’s great on-the-go. I’m kind of a trail mix-addict, and this is a much healthier, lower sugar alternative. Blueberries + toasted walnuts, strawberries + almonds, raspberries + hazelnuts… get creative.
Cucumber “chips” with guacamole. This is Henry’s favorite after-school snack, and sometimes when he’s being extra picky at dinner, I let him eat this and call it a day. Veggies, check. Healthy fats, check.
Banana coins. I’m not sure where Henry “coined” this name, but it’s basically banana slices topped with a dollop of peanut butter. If he’s lucky, I’ll hide a couple (stevia-sweetened) chocolate chips in a couple of the coins for him to find.
N’ice cream. Throw frozen bananas into the blender with a few drops of stevia, a few ice cubes, and a splash of almond milk. Blend to the consistency of ice cream (okay, so it’s more like a milkshake… but still delish.) Top with toasted almonds, coconut flakes, or a few chocolate chips and you’ve got yourself a n’ice cream sundae.
We’re 1 month in, and I can honestly say that we have way less food struggles in our house — and the kids are overall consuming a healthier, more varied diet over the course of the day since they’re not filling up on processed carbs when they get home from school. Trust me when I say that this way of eating does not have to be time-consuming or restrictive! When I go to pack their lunches on school nights, I open up the pantry and grab some brown rice cakes with peanut butter or a Simple Mills Chunky Peanut Butter Soft-Baked Bar, and then into the lunchbox toss some celery sticks, a handful of raspberries, and a low-sugar yogurt or some string cheese for protein.
And if you’re wondering if I ever make exceptions to the rule, the answer is yes. Last Sunday we went to Swedish Hill for brunch, and when Henry asked if he could have one of those super yummy cinnamon roll things with the white frosting, I said a wholehearted yes. Then we went home and he had a fruit smoothie that I snuck a little spinach into. Life should always make room for indulgences from time to time, but for us, keeping the things we stock in our home kitchen a little cleaner has been the way to go. The whole idea of after-school snacks has gone from a point of contention (and stress) to a happier time of day when we all get a healthy little treat.
I’d love to know: have you guys ever purged your pantry of junk food? How did it go? What was the hardest part or the snack food you missed most?
This post is sponsored by our friends at Simple Mills, making clean, nutritious foods for a better life.