Thursday, September 15, 2011

Post-Kid Kitchen: Preschool Snack Ideas

Bus Stop

The first day of preschool is right around the corner. We still have a boatload of different things to consider, but all anyone seemed to want to talk about at the Parent Meeting was food.

The preschool, like many schools, is nut-free. Westley is the only vegan child, but one of his classmates is sensitive to dairy, along with wheat and all nuts and seeds. Westley's teacher spun this as an opportunity to make especially healthful snacks for our little ones, focusing on fruits and vegetables. But of course—of course—the question of protein came up.

"But what if he really needs protein during the day?" one mom asked, referring to her own son. "Can I send him with a cheese stick?"

Preschool only lasts 2 1/2 hours. A protein-rich breakfast before school and a protein-rich lunch afterwards should take care of even the most body-building of kids—but I didn't say this. I have to work with these people. It would be nice if some of them liked me. (And God knows I have my own borderline-ridiculous concerns when it comes to my son!)

So I started brainstorming ideas for vegan-friendly, wheat-/nut-/seed-free snack ideas:

Asian pears
Satsuma/clementine oranges
Berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
Melons: watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe

Bell pepper: red, orange, yellow
Green beans
Cauliflower (roasted is especially yummy!)
Broccoli (roasted or lightly steamed)
Avocado slices or mild guacamole

Protein (fortunately none of our children has soy allergies or sensitivities!)
Edamame — in pods or shelled
Chickpeas — boiled with seasoning, straight from the can, or roasted until crunchy!
Tofu — Trader Joe's sells an organic High-Protein Super-Firm tofu that has a texture much like dairy cheese. It's "drier" than the water-packed tofus, making it easy to cut into cubes, sticks, and so on. Many tofu-skeptics in my life love super-firm tofu!
SoyNut Butter
Black Bean and corn salad
Quinoa elbow macaroni
Hummus (I think Westley is the only vegan child who doesn't like dipping things in hummus, but lots of kids adore it!)

Popcorn (air- or stove-popped)
Oven fries
Gluten-free rice pasta in finger-friendly shapes: penne, fusilli, spirals
Rice cakes
Rice crackers
Tortilla chips

Other stuff
Enjoy Life Foods makes lots of allergen-free packaged foods. I haven't tried these products, except for the allergen-free chocolate chips which I use in baking projects, but it seemed worth mentioning.


I didn't include gluten-/nut-/seed-free vegan muffins, cookies, and other baked goods on the list. Because I'm a pessimist. I have trouble imagining an omni-and-non-allergic family leaping into the world of allergen-free baking. But you can bet your muffin pans that the first time someone has a birthday at school, I'll send Westley with the two most beautiful gluten-free vegan cupcakes you've ever seen: one for him, and one for his wheat-/dairy-/nut-/seed-free buddy.

Which means I have the world's best excuse to learn how to pipe vegan buttercream!

* * *

It's so odd for me to be making this list. At home, Westley snacks mostly on straight-up fruit. Some days, I can't get him to eat much else! But he's almost always happy to devour a whole pound of grapes.



Anonymous said...

What if you have a kid who will not eat what is on the list? Totally interested! I can see a nut free school but not being able to send a turkey sandwich or something seems odd- I mean, we all eat differently and that is great. I know how inflection is left out over the internet so please know I am not being snarky, just curious!!!!

Noelle said...

You don't come off as snarky at all! I hope I don't either.

I know my own kid won't eat everything on the list! And if a child chooses not to eat snack, that's his or her choice. But since parents take turns bringing snacks for the entire class, the goal was to have a list ready when someone's turn to be Snack Parent rolls around and he or she asks, "What can I bring that everyone can eat?"

I got the impression at the meeting that it's not so much "turkey sandwiches aren't allowed" as it is striving to be respectful of our class's different dietary needs by not deliberately excluding anyone from the group snack.

And next year, when the kids are 4- and 5-year-olds, everyone will be in charge of bringing his or her own snack. Much easier, as far as I'm concerned!

Anonymous said...

Oh- see, I am dense, haha. I thought it was forbidden to bring anything that wasn't nut free/wheat free and vegan! Bring on!!!!
Btw- there are some fab vegan/soy free (because while we are not vegan we stay clear of soy products but I lurve to bake vegan!) mint chocolate cupcakes that I have in my arsenal of recipes if you are interested! Also, this peanut butter chocolate pillows from post punk kitchen are to die for!

Cindy said...

Wow. Parents take turns bringing snack? I have to admit that would send me running. I have too many people asking me, "Wait, fish isn't vegan???" to be comfortable with others feeding my vegan kid. Luna just started preschool as well, but it is not a nut free school. They do, however, have a strict no sharing policy. Then again, no child has a deadly allergy. Oh and Luna's anti-hummus too! What's with our vegan children not liking hummus??

Noelle said...

Yeah, it's not my favorite thing, Cindy, but I'm trying not to worry about it. And it's not the end of the world if he accidentally eats something non-vegan. At least, it's not the end of my world. But I'm not in the running for World's Best Vegan Parent at all.

Hummus is touted as the Holy Grail of vegan kid snacks! I don't get it! There should be a club: Hummus-Hating Vegan Kids.

Anonymous said...

If the kids there are 3 and unde, you might want to reconsider the whole "popcorn" thing. Lots of 3 andyounger kids can easily choke on popcorn. My ER doc best friend says she sees LOTS of toddlers who have choked on popcorn. Just FYI.