Healthy dried snacks that you make at home in your dehydrator are a great way to avoid feeding your kids supermarket junk food.
By Carly Miles
Have you been down the snack aisle at your local grocery store lately in search of some healthy snacks for your child? If not, then you’re not missing out on much at all. However, if you’ve found yourself walking in that area with the kids in tow, you may have noticed how challenging it could be to find a variety of healthy and nutritious snacks for your precious little ones.
Commercial snacks often contain a high amount of sugar and many artificial ingredients that can have a significant negative impact on health.
But there’s good news! As a solution, here are seven healthy dried snacks that you can make using a food dehydrator.
1. Kale Chips
Kale is full of amazing health benefits. Besides being low calorie, zero fat, and high fiber, it’s also high in Iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin K. Kale is great in salads and when dried can satisfy a craving for salty snacks.
Kale chips are a yummy treat that kids love. Here’s how to make them:
Wash and dry one bunch of kale thoroughly. Then cut or tear the leaves into pieces while removing the stems. Wisk together 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, ¼ tsp. paprika, and ½ tsp. sea salt in a large bowl. Add kale and mix gently to coat with oil mixture. Arrange the kale on dehydrating trays and dry for about 2 to 4 hours at or between 105 and 115 degrees F.
Kale chips come in all sorts of wonderful flavors, try exploring some of these delicious kale chips recipes and see which ones you and your family enjoy.
2. Apple Rings
Apples are a timeless treat. One of the first healthy eating habit principles we often teach our kids is, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” So what better way to make healthy snacks than with apples?
When dehydrated, apples’ chewy texture can be a fun snacking option for your kids. We leave the skin on to make the most of the apple’s antioxidants and dietary fiber.
In order to make the ring shape, you’ll need an apple corer. You can find one online or at kitchen shops, either with or without a peeler. It’s also best that you use organic apples if at all possible. If you’re unable to get access to organic apples, be sure to wash your apples thoroughly.
After washing and coring (and peeling if desired), slice apples ¼ inch thick and as evenly as possible. Mix ¼ c. lemon juice with 1 quart of water and soak slices for several minutes, being sure to get both sides of each slice. This will help them retain their color while drying. Space the slices evenly on trays and dehydrate for 6 to 8 hours at 135 degrees F. For a great fall variety, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and nutmeg before drying.
3. Dehydrated Kiwi
The kiwi fruit is high in a variety of micronutrients. These include Vitamin K, E, and more Vitamin C than an orange, as well as copper, fiber, potassium, manganese, and folate. They’re available year-round and when dried have a slightly sour taste. Here’s how to prepare kiwi as a dried snack.
Peel and slice an organic kiwi as thinly as possible. See this video on how to peel a kiwi the fast way.
Distribute the kiwi slices evenly on the trays and dry at 135 degrees for 6 hours. Check for dryness using the Quick Tip at the end of this article, and return to the trays only if necessary. In order to retain their high Vitamin C content, this is one you won’t want to over-dry.
Made with whole grains, seeds, and sometimes nuts, granola is a good source of healthy fats and carbohydrates that provides a filling snack with sticking power. If you have a full day ahead with the kids with various activities, this is great snack to pack for on-the-go. It will help curb hunger, and hold everyone until the next meal.
This recipe is nut-free, but you can add nuts or subtract seeds to suit your tastes. You can also mix in other dried fruits to make flavorful additions to yogurt and salad. Here’s how to make your granola:
Mix together 1 ½ cup raw rolled oats, ½ cup raw sunflower seeds, ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, ¼ cup raw sesame seeds, ½ Tbsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Set dry mixture aside. Whisk together ¼ c maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil, and ½ tsp. vanilla extract. Add in the dry mixture and mix thoroughly. Spread the mixture evenly on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 110 degrees F for 4 to 6 hours or until you get the crunch you want.
You can store the granola in the fridge or freezer to preserve freshness longer.
5. Fruit Leather
Homemade fruit leathers are an amazing alternative to store-bought fruit roll ups. Your kids will love them, and you can rest assured that they will be made without corn syrup or any other artificial ingredients. They’re also a great way for you to use seasonal fruits while they’re fresh.
This is definitely one to get the kids involved in making. Select any single fruit or mixture. Our favorites are berry mixtures, but you can check out some here.
Once your fruit has been washed and peeled (as necessary), add fruit and any other flavorings – such as honey, spices, or vanilla in a blender. Blend until smooth. Then, spread on a fruit leather tray to about 1/8-inch thick in the middle and up to ¼ inch thick around the edges. Dry at 135 degrees F for 6 to 12 hours, depending on the fruit and any additives. Your fruit leather may be a little sticky, even when dry.
To package, transfer to wax paper after drying. Cut into strips with a pizza cutter, and roll up like the store-bought kind.
Fruit leather should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator to prevent reabsorption of moisture. If you’d prefer to keep it on a shelf, you might consider vacuum sealing it to ensure food safety.
6. Veggie Chips
A combination of vegetables to create your own vegetable chips offers a medley of nutritious health benefits. We enjoy zucchini and squash chips as an alternative to store-bought chips. Here’s how to make your own veggies chips:
Wash and slice vegetables to about ¼ inch thick. Lightly blanch and immediately rinse with ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Check out this video for a quick blanching tutorial. Toss with olive oil and spread evenly on dehydrator trays. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and dry on 115 degrees F for about 12 hours or overnight. Store in airtight jars to keep them crisp and delicious.
In addition to being nutritious, these veggie chips are also a great on-the-go snack for kids.
7. Carrot Crackers
The benefits of veggies for kids can’t be overstated, and carrot crackers are one great way to work them into everyday snacks.
Carrots contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B8, iron, folate, copper, manganese, potassium, and tons of antioxidant power. This is definitely a good vegetable for your child to consume more of.
Start with 2 cups raw carrot pulped in the food processor or blender. You can add a variety of seeds, such as chia, sesame, or pumpkin, but some kids may prefer their crackers “smooth.”
In a bowl, add ½ cup flour (any kind will work, but I used a mix of wheat and bread flour), ½ tsp. sea salt, and your choice of seeds. Blend until evenly mixed. Let stand for about 5 minutes so that the flour absorbs the liquid from the carrots. Add ¼ cup of water or fruit juice and form the dough into a ball. Add 1 tsp more of water or juice until it is dry but not crumbly. Press dough out onto fruit dehydrator trays to 1/8 inch-thick and cut into pieces. Dry at 120 degrees F for 8 hours or more or until the crackers hold their shape and there is no moisture left.
If you plan to keep the crackers on the shelf for several weeks, they must be completely dry.
With the above list of healthy dried snacks in mind, you can now easily navigate through your grocery store and skip the snack aisle altogether. Instead, head for the fruits, produce, and other sections to select the ingredients to make your own healthy dried snacks for your kids.
Dried snacks taste great, keep well on the shelf, are easy to take with you anywhere, and encourage good eating habits for you and your entire family.
I hope you and your family have fun making these healthy dried snacks and experience great health.
Need a quick way to test for total food dryness? Place your dried food straight from the rack into a clear Ziploc bag and seal completely. Wait a few minutes and then check the inside of the bag. If there is even the barest hint of condensation, place the food back on the dehydrator trays as soon as possible.
Carly Miles enjoys all things healthy and natural. She blogs at dehydratorliving.com where she shares essential information about using food dehydrators to promote healthy living through recipes, tips, and many other valuable resources. This article was first published in Natural Child Magazine.