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Water cooler: Finding the perfect summer snack for the pickiest eater

Ants on a log is a delicious treat to get your child to eat vegetables.  (LIZ KISHIMOTO/The Spokesman-Review)
Ants on a log is a delicious treat to get your child to eat vegetables. (LIZ KISHIMOTO/The Spokesman-Review)

Sometimes our tiny, picky eaters need a little convincing. Easier said than done when you are trying to offer something on the healthy side. Here are a few ideas to add something fun to the snack rotation without sacrificing nutrients or getting too dependent on added sugar.

Unicorn Bark

Here’s a fancier version of frozen yogurt that is magical enough to delight the most particular of young food critics. Better yet, you get to control how much sugar is added. Yogurt offers a dose of protein, beneficial probiotics and calcium, and is also high in B vitamins. For those looking to avoid dairy, this recipe works just as well with plant-based alternative yogurts.

Measure half a cup of plain or vanilla yogurt into three bowls. Add your choice of food coloring to each bowl, and you can also leave one bowl plain. For a natural alternative, mix in thawed berries of different colors such as raspberry, blueberry or pineapple to each bowl. The juice from the berries will help dye the yogurt. Sweeten to taste.

Line a baking pan or dish with parchment paper. Dollop in the yogurt in various spots, then swirl it together for your custom whimsical design. Add sprinkles, chocolate chips, nuts, fruit or whatever toppings you prefer for a little added festivity.

Freeze for about four hours or until completely frozen. Break up the yogurt into chunks and there you have a quick and cool snack for a hot summer day.

Apple Nachos

This is a flexible recipe – you can use your preference of apple and toppings. The trick is simply making it sound a little more enticing to kids than just “Here’s an apple.” Apple nachos, though? That’s bringing the party to snack time.

Using your mastery of culinary skills, slice an apple and arrange it splayed out on a plate as if it were a bed of tortilla chips.

For toppings, nut butter and chocolate is a classic choice. Choose your favorite nut butter whether it be peanut, almond, cashew or even sunflower. Melt it in the microwave or on the stove top until it is soft and liquidy. Drizzle it on the apples with a spoon and top with a sprinkling of chocolate chips. For more protein and less sugar, substitute chocolate chips with crushed nuts.

This is also an easy recipe to modify and make vegan. Use vegan chocolate chips or a plant-based topping such as nuts, berries, chia seeds or hemp hearts.

For a sweeter treat, substitute the nut butter for caramel or hazelnut chocolate spread.

Ants on a Log

Now for the greatest challenge, vegetables. Ants on a log is a classic way to make celery more fun, but there are plenty of variations to this idea.

First, the log. You could use celery, or substitute that for carrot sticks, cucumber cut lengthwise, banana cut lengthwise, bell pepper sticks or zucchini sticks.

For the filling you can always stick with nut butter or you could substitute that out for cream cheese, cottage cheese, hummus, mashed avocado or guacamole, yogurt, honey, tzatziki or hazelnut chocolate spread. Anything that will help stick on the ants will do.

The ants can come in all shapes or sizes – they don’t have to be the widely dreaded raisin. You could chop up any dried fruit into smaller pieces such as apricots, dates, fig, pineapples, craisins or apples. You could also use chopped nuts or fresh berries or grapes. For more vegetables you could use peas, corn, olives or cherry tomatoes. You could use beans for an extra dose of protein. Chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds or sunflower seeds also work as a healthy alternative. Or if something a little sweeter helps the vegetables go down, try small candies or chocolate chips.

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