Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dye-Free Preschool Snacks and Party Back-Ups

Since she was so used to getting a custom snack each day at Summer camp, she demanded requested a "Mommy-snack" for each day of preschool as well. I figured it wouldn't hurt to start out, and let the teachers ease into having to check labels. I told Z if the teacher told her something was safe, that she could have it also, and as always, cheese, fresh fruits, and vegetables were safe.
I packed a "safe snacks" bag, for them to substitute out from, in case I forget or don't have time to pack a snack some day, as well as a personal snack each day her first two days of school.

First Day of School Snack:
TJ's White Cheddar Popcorn, seaweed crackers, blackberries, carrot flowers

 Second Day of School Snack:
Raspberries, Chobani Champions Vanilla Chocolate Chunk Greek yogurt, blueberry flax seed granola
The granola (Target's Archer Farms brand) is in a Glit and Brillia leakproof lidded container. It has a flexible lid that she can easily open, although she cannot yet close it. Or didn't try. I didn't follow my own advice and practice with her in advance. Oh well. The spoon came with the Hello Kitty bento box (there was a tray insert to store the utensils that I didn't use, since the yogurt fit exactly if I left the tray out.) I bent a pre-assembled Cool Straw and put it inside the box, since I figured she might not remember how to put them together and the teachers probably wouldn't want to open her box, and yogurt, and granola, etc etc (depending how lazy she was feeling. She can open the yogurt herself, as I've caught her eating contraband yogurt before! And she was able to open the granola container in a previous lunch.)

It turns out that packing her snacks was the way to go, since according to her recap of what the other kids had, she wouldn't have been able to have anything! The first day the snack parent sent GoGurts and cookies (!!!) and the second day was cheese crackers (or cheese and crackers, in which case the cheese would have been fine. Most kiddie-type crackers have a fake preservative that she can't have, including most anything by Keebler and Cheez-Its) and gummy bears (!!!!!)
I'm unclear whether the teachers checked the fruit juice concentrate for dyes both days and it had some, or if they thought the "just in case" drink boxes were to be used regardless, but Z didn't drink the juice.

                                        Quickie "Just In Case" Safe Snack Substitutes
TJs White Cheddar Popcorn, TJs Ginger Cats cookies, Horizon Organic
Strawberry milk boxes, emergency "treats" bag

I hadn't had time to go to Trader Joe's or the grocery to stock up, so I did a quickie assortment of stuff I had on-hand. This would only last for a few days' worth of snack. She had picked out the Horizon Organic Strawberry Milk boxes (shelf-stable) to try, despite having disliked my homemade "pink milk" with dye-filled strawberry syrup ages ago.
I wouldn't normally include a ton of cookies, since the teachers wouldn't just give her one or two. They'd probably hand her the whole cup. But I didn't have a large selection of stuff that wouldn't expire before the end of the school year. And much of the stuff I was able to scrounge up had nuts in it, and this is a nut-free school.

In the smaller Ziploc are some candy treats in case someone brings something I'm unprepared for. And I made sure to write a big note on the bag letting them know that these were not for snack. They're in case of an unexpected birthday treat, or a really junky snack that the other kids are getting that she wants, or something like that. Hopefully I'll get the whole thing back at the end of the year!
There's a Trader Joe's Brown Rice Crispy Bar, a few YummyEarth Organic Lollipops, and a package of Unreal 41 (candy-coated chocolates, like Ms.) I'm very excited about this new line of "unjunked" candy by Unreal. They have unjunked versions of Ms, Snickers, Milky Way, and Reese's Cups. And at prices that don't break the bank, compared to the familiar brands. Plus I don't have to drive too far to some specialty retailer to find it.
They are available at Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Staples, and CVS stores, to name a few. I paid $1.19 per individual serving-size packet, and the junked-up candy bars are usually around $.80-.90 each, so I'm not paying through the nose for it, like many small-run gourmet candies that I've had to get to find safe substitutes. I even found some larger "bulk" bags at Rite Aid for $5, and the candy bar ones had little mini versions, which will be great to trade for her trick-or-treat, Valentines, and Easter hunt loot; or to put in party bags or in her stocking! Or *ahem* in the occasional bento lunch!

Coming Soon!
I plan to bring some Goldfish crackers, frozen Trader Joe's yogurt Squishers (like GoGurts) that they can pull out and thaw as needed,) and some frozen frosted cupcakes (to substitute for birthday party treats.) I found an organic mini-cupcake bakery near Little Gym, and everything she makes is free from artificial ingredients, except for the Red Velvet flavor, which contains fake red. So Z and I went (with Baby, of course) after gym camp one day to "taste-test" and pick which flavor(s) she'd like to have on-hand for parties (so Mama doesn't have to make them!) And at only $1 each - less if you buy by the dozen, the cost is well worth the time and effort it saves me to not have to make them myself!
The White Chocolate Guava was the only one she didn't like and let me have the rest of. I was allowed one taste of each of the rest, mostly consisting of crumbs and frosting I had to use my finger to wipe off the plate. Her favorites were Double Chocolate, Carrot Cake, and Marion Berry. But her #1 choice was carrot cake. So now I need to get off my butt order them and go back and pick them up and freeze for the school.

Tools of the Trade:
Tall brown silicone muffin cup from IKEA in mini Clapping March Picnic bento box. Cool Straw and lidded container (found at an Asian grocery) in a Hello Kitty box from Sanrio. 8-oz plastic Ball freezer jam jars for storing individual servings of snacks without getting crushed!

Microwavable Japanese Bento Box Lunch Snack Box Pink 


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I was wondering how to approach the snack and birthday treat substitutes for my son at school and this post is a heaven sent. Thank you!

  2. I just found your blog. Looks great! My boys follow a similar diet, and I've been thinking about how to best deal with it next year when my oldest will start kindergarten. Luckily, he'll be going to the school where I teach, so it shouldn't be a problem to have substitute treats on hand.

    As it stands now, he just says no and doesn't expect a substitute. But the older he gets, I'm sure the temptation to join his friends will be stronger.


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