I was at a meeting with other childcare providers and the subject of crackers came up. Conversation centered around the use of crackers as the ‘grain’ portion of meals and snacks. There was a brief moment of silence after I commented that I didn’t think the children liked crackers all that much so we rarely have them here.
Then I had to clarify my statement; The children don’t like the crackers that I am willing to buy. I have searched through the cracker aisle in the grocery store and read every label. My husband has been near meltdown stage begging me to just pick a box and move on. I sigh and choose a variety that is somewhat (barely) acceptable. I won’t advertise the brand but this is the nutrition label;
The sodium level is still too high but it is less than some of the other types and at least it has some fibre. Most crackers have none – even many of the ones that claim to be multigrain or wholegrain. The only ‘benefit’ to this purchase is that this 200g box will be in my pantry for at least two months.
Yes, you read that correctly. Even with eight children in care it will take about that long to finish a single box of crackers. There are some types of crackers that the children really do like and will consume more of but the nutrition labels for them are nearly identical to that of a bag of chips.
Our four week menu has two snacks per day, five days per week for a total of 40 snacks. Each snack has a serving of each of these food groups – fruit, dairy and grain. Currently I only use packaged crackers for two of those 40 snacks. So what are the other 38 you ask?
- Oatmeal – the steel cut kind – I refuse to buy/make the overly processed varieties.
- Store bought breads & bagels – always whole wheat or multigrain – the heavier the better. We haven’t had any type of white bread here in the last 10 years.
- Homemade breads etc – apple bread, raisin bread, pumpkin loaf, biscuits, and more. I use only whole wheat flour even when the recipe calls for all purpose.
- Breakfast cereals – high fibre with limited sugar – a processed item that I think is acceptable when only offered once per week.
- Quinoa Pudding
- Quesadillas made with multigrain tortillas
- Homemade cookies and bars – all contain wholegrain flour and old fashioned oats
There are also a few snack items that I am considering eliminating. Things like rice crispy squares and store bought waffles, and graham wafers. A total of six items in the four week menu that I’d like to replace – eight items if I replace those crackers too.
These items might be considered ‘treats’ but are certainly not necessities. I’d even question the use of the term ‘convenience’ in reference to these items. Healthier options are not a lot more work. A big batch of biscuits or scones takes less than an hour to prepare, bake and clean up after. They freeze well so they can be prepared in advance and used a required.
What about the cost of homemade snacks verses the cost of store bought items? Financially I think it varies but most of the homemade items are less expensive. Time wise homemade items may cost more unless you are like me and spend hours in the store reading labels before you buy. Nutritionally there is no contest – homemade always beats processed.
So, I’m off to find some new recipes. I’ve got a long weekend ahead and a half empty freezer. First up I think I’ll try something I’ve never made before – biscotti. Maybe I’ll find a way to use all that pumpkin puree I have left from last fall…