Cupcakes and cookies may be oft associated with class parties, but more and more schools are requesting that parents send low- or no-sugar snacks for their children’s celebrations. Here, we’ve whipped up some sweet ideas for tasty treats to please every age, no matter the season.
Fall: Mini muffins
Nothing fuels a classroom like a sweet breakfast treat during morning lessons. With their bitty size and home-baked taste, miniature muffins are sure to bring big smiles to your child’s day. And with plenty of options for subtracting refined sweeteners and adding fruits and vegetables such as bananas, carrots, apples, raisins, and zucchini, they’ll certainly spice up yours.
Try these sugar substitutes in your favorite fruit/veggie muffin recipe:
- When a recipe calls for 1 cup of refined white sugar, swap in ¾ cup of the natural sweetener maple syrup, which boasts lots of good-for-you minerals, as well as ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Cut the dominant liquid by 3 tablespoons.
- Trade 1 cup of sugar for ¾ cup apple, orange, or white grape juice concentrate, and then reduce another liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. This changes up the final flavor in an interesting and unique way.
- Cut the amount of called-for sugar in half, and then add an extra teaspoon of vanilla for a flavor boost.
- Replace half of the sugar with the same amount of natural applesauce plus roughly ? more. For each cup of applesauce, decrease the primary liquid by a quarter.
Winter: Peanut Butter Hand Pies
These personal pies are precious, portable, and perfectly portioned, which makes them a sweet little treat for your little ones. When selecting your peanut butter, beware that low-fat versions often pump up a blander flavor with added sugar. Instead, opt for an unsweetened variety that includes nothing more than peanuts on its list of ingredients. Delivering to a peanut-free school or concerned about allergies? Sunflower seed butter makes an excellent substitute.
To make the hand pies:
- Roll out store-bought or homemade piecrust (which consists of little more than flour, butter, salt, and water) on a floured surface.
- Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter or the rim of a similarly sized drinking glass, cut out two circles for each serving.
- Smear a small dollop of peanut butter into the center of half of your circles. If desired, add some small-diced berries on top of the peanut butter (or try thawed frozen berries for a softer, jam-like consistency).
- Top with the remaining piecrusts, and then cut small slits in the tops to vent. Using a fork, press the edges of the top and bottom piecrusts together. Lightly brush the tops with a beaten egg white.
- Bake the hand pies on a silicone-lined baking sheet for about 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Spring: Fruit Fun
Get fresh with fruit and you are sure to sweeten your child’s day without having to peel open the sugar sack. There are plenty of ways to combine and present fruit bites beyond the simple salad, so play with shapes to find creative arrangements.
Try these pretty presentation tricks:
- The Butterfly Effect: Quarter a banana, then tuck a thin pretzel into each side of the fruit to look like wings. Stick two apple slivers into the top of the banana as antennae, and press raisins onto the front as eyes.
- Caterpillar Critters: Slide five to six green grapes onto a swizzle stick (which is better suited to a kid’s snack than a sharp-ended kabob skewer) and attach two dried cranberry eyes using cream cheese as glue. If desired, create antennae using carrot slivers.
- Rainbow Bites: Using swizzle sticks as skewers, slide onto each a strawberry, orange slice, pineapple, green grape, and blackberry to form a rainbow. Serve with individual cups of low-sugar yogurt (see below) for dipping.
Summer: Party Popsicles
Nothing fits hot weather like a frozen treat, and for low-sugar options, applesauce, fruit puree, and yogurt can’t be beat. You can certainly use popsicle molds for your frosty creations, but if you plan to tote them to camp or daycare, paper cups and wooden sticks (available at most craft stores) work just as well.
Taste these cool ideas for frozen concoctions:
- Pureed melon like cantaloupe and watermelon needs no added sweeteners. Just pour the processed fruit into a mold and slide into the freezer.
- Yogurt freezes into a creamy dream, but you’ll need to mind the sugar content of flavored varieties. To keep the amount added sugar down, make your own yogurt mash-up:
- Place fresh fruit into a food processor with plain yogurt (which has about half the added sweeteners as the flavored stuff) and pulse until combined. Still too bitter for your babe? Add just a squeeze of honey or agave nectar.
- Natural, no-sugar-added applesauce also freezes nicely. For a fun twist, add fresh berry puree to half of your applesauce, then freeze in alternating layers for a striped finish.
How do you sweeten your child’s school snacks without sugar?