I was just working on a family’s protocol offering up recommendations for healthier “crunchy” foods, and thought “I need to share this!” So here I am with my list of 40 healthy crunchy foods for kids!
Most kids do very well with crunchy foods, especially picky eaters.
When Sienna went through her earlier phases of extreme picky eating, crunchy foods were a staple. If I steered into the territory of mushy foods (like muffins) or slimy foods (like yogurt) it was anxiety-provoking. I had to prepare myself for a lot of gagging, and even vomiting. Nope…those days were not fun.
But here we are today, with a little girl who had my homemade pumpkin seed & zucchini crackers for breakfast, with hazelnut butter, and some coconut yogurt. No gagging and no tears. I NEVER thought things would change, but with some tweaks, we completely turned things around. She is a different child at meals and stress is long gone.
Why do children crave crunchy foods?
Picky eaters like my daughter in her earlier years, tend to be selective with food because of their sensory preferences. For instance, a child can be under-sensitive or over-sensitive to sensory input like smell, taste, and texture.
When we are under sensitivity, we can’t process sensory input from food properly or feel softer textures in our mouth (think of it as if the sensation in our mouth is numbed). When sensations are numbed, we would avoid foods like yogurt, bread, etc., and instead develop a preference for crunchier foods. Sienna would also over-stuffed her mouth to help feel her food and get a sense of the oral boundaries. Intimately known as the “chipmunk effect”.
ORAL MOTOR DELAYS
Some children (also like my Sienna) have low muscle tone or delayed chewing skills. They haven’t quite figured out how to move their tongue around and position food for chewing and swallowing. Some crunchy foods are easier to manage because they often dissolve and require limited oral motor skills. Kids get their energy/calories much quicker with these calorically-dense foods, versus having to gnaw on a lot of broccoli.
And more simply, kids (and adults alike) may crave the crunch because these foods tend to taste better. So I asked the parents who follow me which Crunchy foods their kids go crazy for and here’s what I heard:
- Cheese Puffs
- Cheesy Crackers (Cheezits, Cheese Nibs)
- Animal Crackers
- French Fries
I’d love to know which crunchy foods your little one loves? Comment below!
Alternative crunchy foods (healthier options)
Picky eaters also tend to be limited eaters, so getting a nutrient punch with every bite is important. So I’ve also included a list of 40 crunchy foods (healthier alternatives) you can try at home. Because rotating foods is important to keep (or get) our kids out of the cycle of eating the same foods (and nutrients) every single day. Even the smallest change can help expand their variety.
The list here includes mostly packaged foods (aside from your fruit and veg options). And I’ll be honest, we don’t have much of these foods in the house now. I prefer to slave over the stove making our own crunchy foods and saving the environment from all the packaging.
But I get it. Time is precious as a parent and without these convenience snacks, we’d go insane! So I’ve selected the products you can feel good about giving your little ones. They are better than the average crunchy cookie, chip, or cracker. Mostly GMO-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and preservative-free.
As a Certified Nutritionist & Picky Eating Expert, I also help parents incorporate healthier alternatives unless their child has a VERY limited list of preferred foods. Then eating comes first and nutrition comes second.
40 Healthy Crunchy Foods
|Vegetables||Carrot, Celery, Parsnip|
|Kale Chips||Love this brand as well|
|Snap Peas (organic)|
|Pear slices (less ripe)|
|Banana chips||Sweetened varieties also available|
|Apple chips (organic)||Same as above|
|Sweet Snacks||Cashew Clusters|
|Coconut “Smiles”||Great source of healthy fats|
|Cinnamon Rice Cakes||Top with favourite nut or seed butter|
|Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas||Great source of protein|
|Nuts & Seeds||Pumpkin Seeds||High in iron and fibre|
|Chips||Beanitos||Made of beans so higher in protein|
|Snap Pea Crisps||Or http://www.harvestsnaps.com/products/|
|Sweet Potato Chips|
|Blue Chips||Gluten Free, Non GMO, Organic|
|Crackers||Rice Crackers||Limit to a few days a week due to concerns with arsenic.|
|Rice Cake Thins||Same as above.|
|Sweet Potato Crackers||Beet flavour also available|
|Oat Crackers||Gluten-free, No sugar|
|Mary’s Crackers||Wheat-free, No sugar, Organic ingredients, few ingredients|
|Cereal||Love Grown Power O’s||Bean-based cereal|
|Paleo Granola||Nutrient-dense: mostly nuts and seeds, low sugar|
|18 Rabbits Granola||Nut free|
|JK Granola||My fave! Gluten and grain free, low sugar|
|Ginger Snaps||no preservatives, low sugar, additives, trans-fat or cholesterol, made with Spelt flour, Wheat-Free|
|Protein Bars||Soy is primary ingredient so limit to one or two a week|
|Hemp Heart Bites||Contains healthy fats|
Download a printable version here!
Did I miss any favourites? Let me know in the comments!
And if your child’s eating is a concern for you, definitely try out the “Curious Cookie Food Exploration Mat,” it is the ultimate mealtime tool to get picky eaters to try new foods faster and it will help you identify your child’s sensory preferences. Your child is encouraged to investigate each food you present them and walk through different sensory towns, by exploring foods sense-by-sense you can figure out what sense is affecting their eating habits.