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Healthy Holiday Snacks

by Linda Piette

Get your kids into a festive spirit this year, and give them some delicious, healthy treats with our easy-to-make holiday snacks. The three quick recipes below save time, help your children avoid extra fat and calories, and provide ample opportunities for creativity! So let the fun begin!

The search for green and red fruits is all part of the fun. It can begin in your own pantry, or in the supermarket. Mix family favorites with something new. Some preserved fruits, such as dried cranberries or canned cherries may require a bit of supermarket sleuthing. Specialty stores and food catalogs are another good source for exotic additions. See what you can dig up!

What you need:

Green fruits:

  • kiwis
  • green grapes
  • green apples
  • gooseberries (canned)
  • honeydew melon (fresh or frozen)

Red fruits:

  • strawberries
  • cherries (canned or dried)
  • red grapes
  • cranberries (dried)
  • pomegranates
  • red apples

Simple directions: Wash, peel, and cut fruits as needed. Arrange on a platter in the shape of a wreath.

Tips for preschoolers: Adults can cut fruits into triangles and squares. Talk about the colors and shapes of the fruit while arranging. Your child can help arrange the fruits by color, kind, and shape.

Tips for older children: Encourage your child's artistic expression in arranging the fruits. Creative ideas include concentric circles, wedges, pictures, or something a little more abstract.

Stuffed dates

Dried fruits are traditional holiday foods. In earlier times they were the only fruits available during cold winter months. This easy-to-make treat is a classic, and one that even the youngest child can help to make.

What you need:

  • whole dates (pits removed)
  • walnut halves
  • granulated or powdered sugar (optional)

Simple directions: Slide walnut halves into the slits on each date. Squeeze the date flesh around the nut. Roll in granulated or powdered sugar or leave plain. Arrange the stuffed dates on a serving plate.

Roasted chestnuts

Fresh roasted chestnuts are a seasonal food, available only during the winter holiday season. Although popular for centuries in Europe, North America, and Asia, many Americans have never tried them. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are relatively low in fat and calories, which makes them a healthy snack. Remember, fresh chestnuts are perishable, so store them in the refrigerator and keep them covered to prevent drying out. Although this is quick and easy, cutting the tough outer shell does require a sturdy adult hand. Children can peel off the brittle shells with their fingers, after baking.

What you need:

  • fresh chestnuts

Simple directions: Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut criss-cross slits through the shiny brown outer shell. This lets steam escape and prevents the chestnuts from exploding. (If the cut is deep enough it also makes peeling off the shells easier). Put in a shallow pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes or long enough to handle. Be sure to peel away both the outer shell and the bitter inner husk. Enjoy the sweet nutmeats inside.

Note: Instead of baking chestnuts in an oven, try cooking them over an open fire. Avoid putting them directly in the flames or they will scorch.

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