Nov 2, 2022 Make These Healthy Holiday Snacks with Your Whole Family and Help Kids Eat Healthy Throughout the Season

Mother and child cooking together

As the holiday season is nearly upon us, many kids are filling with excitement and anticipation thinking of upcoming family gatherings, parties, and family cooking and baking traditions of delicious – yet, oftentimes, unhealthy – treats (typically high in salt, saturated and trans fats, and sugar). It’s also a time when parents find their days filled even more than usual, which can make healthy meal planning extra challenging. But, there’s good news…

Kids and their families can still enjoy the season while balancing healthy eating habits.

Barbara Mintz, nutritionist and Senior Vice President of Social Impact and Community Investment at RWJBarnabas Health, offers tips on helping kids eat healthy – even during the holidays – and how to have treats without getting carried away. She also explains how RWJBarnabas Health is helping children and their families learn to eat healthy and provides fun, healthy holiday recipes that kids and will enjoy!

Keep your child’s feeding schedule

Scheduling meals and snacks around the same time each day not only helps children develop a healthy relationship with food, but it also provides them with a sense of security. Although some deviation in your child’s schedule is inevitable, they will feel better knowing that they’ll have other opportunities to eat throughout the day (approximately every 2-3 hours). It can also help to improve their appetite at mealtimes. Most young children need three main meals per day, with healthy snacks in between.

Let them help prepare and cook with you

Getting your kids involved in the kitchen allows them to learn about different foods and builds skills that they will likely take into adulthood. It can also create greater interest and curiosity in trying new, healthy foods, especially if they are helping to create and prepare dishes and mealtimes with you. This can be as easy as setting the table, helping mix and stir foods, and talking about what is being prepared and where the food comes from.

Concentrate on color

Fruits and vegetables might not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of the holidays, but kids really engage in trying new items when their food is colorful. Have them create a rainbow of these foods and offer them both cooked and raw. Another great benefit of serving fruits and veggies is that you can always put them in puddings, breads, stews, or soups, which may help your child try them – especially if they are engaged in the preparation.

Keep healthy snacks on hand

Children get hungry in between meals. Instead of reaching for quick, packaged snacks – which are usually full of added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients – take advantage of the opportunity to put some extra nutrients into your child’s diet. Keeping a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter or in the refrigerator, as well as cut up veggies, encourages choosing a healthy snack instead of chips and cookies. Also have foods like yogurt, string cheese, peanut butter, and popcorn that they help prepare easily available.

Encourage moderation of treats

It’s ok to allow treats sometimes. Don’t make them feel guilty about enjoying their sweets. Using these foods as reward or punishment can prompt a difficult relationship with food in the future so it is best to encourage healthy choices and keep the foods high in sugar and fat in moderation.

RWJBarnabas Health helps families learn to adopt a healthy lifestyle

As physical activity and good nutrition can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases, RWJBarnabas Health is committed to helping children and adults develop a healthy lifestyle.

KidsFit, for example, an all-inclusive wellness program, utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to guide children, teens, and their families to help them make healthier food choices and incorporate activity into their lives. Hannah’s Kitchen, at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, offers a KidsFit cooking program as part of the system’s wellness offerings. Offered in-person and virtually on Tuesday afternoons, this hands-on class educates children, ages 8-12, how to cook safely and use nutritious ingredients – oftentimes using fresh foods taken directly from the system’s own Beth Greenhouse.

To register for the Healthy Kids in Hannah’s Kitchen class, click here.

Additionally, Wellness on Wheels – another exciting initiative of RWJBarnabas Health – features a greenhouse and cooking school on wheels! While it brings free cooking demonstrations and nutrition education right into local neighborhoods, such as schools and other public and community-based organizations, one of its main goals is to educate families and individuals from the community about the value of good nutrition and how they can make healthy meals that the whole family can enjoy. Learn more about Wellness on Wheels.

Enjoy making these healthy holiday recipes with your kids.

Reindeer Rice Cakes

Taken right from Hannah’s Kitchen, this fun holiday snack contains just 5 ingredients. It’s healthy, filling, and fun for the whole family to make.

View the Reindeer Rice Cakes recipe below or download it, along with the nutritional information.


  • 4 brown rice cakes, salt free
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) creamy sunflower or nut butter
  • 2 tablespoons blueberries, washed and dried
  • ¼ cup raspberries, washed and dried
  • 6 mini pretzels, unsalted


  1. Place one rice cake on a plate.
  2. Evenly spread one tablespoon of sunflower or nut butter over the top of the rice cake.
  3. Place two blueberries next to each other in the center of the rice cake to make the reindeer’s eyes.
  4. Place one raspberry upside down underneath the blueberry eyes to make the reindeer’s button nose.
  5. Place one mini pretzel on the top left and right sides to make the reindeer’s horns.
  6. Repeat the same steps for the remaining ingredients.
  7. Serve and enjoy this adorable, festive, and balanced snack!

Yield: 4 servings

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

This recipe from Wellness on Wheels kitchen provides a tasty, yet healthy, snack – full of all the fall flavors that people love! Kids will have fun making these muffins and it’s the perfect way to get them to get healthy ingredients in savory treats.

View the Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins recipe below or download it, along with the nutritional information.


  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled (3/4 cup dried quinoa)
  • 1 cup steel cut oats, dried
  • 1 ¼ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup cranberries
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • Optional: You may also choose to add in chia seeds, chocolate chips, almonds, pumpkin seeds, or raisins.


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line muffin tin with a liner or use a cooking spray.
  3. Boil ¾ cup dried quinoa. Drain water and let cool.
  4. Put all ingredients, except for cranberries, in a large mixing bowl and mix.
  5. Stir in cranberries and any add-ins you choose.
  6. Scoop mixture into muffin tin to be ¾ full.
  7. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool. Enjoy!