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As you read on, Chef Shilarna Vaze reveals what goes into her little one’s snacks and how easy they are to prepare. Don't miss the five simple & super healthy recipes at the end!
A hungry child when you’re out, whether shopping or on a road trip, is something every parent would love to avoid. But sometimes it could be a bit of a challenge deciding what to carry with you. To help you, we reached out to chef and cookbook author Shilarna Vaze, aka Chef Chinu, for her top tips regarding on-the-go snacks for young children.
1. What do you look for in an on-the-go snack for your kid?
It should be easy to clean up and no mess. Definitely something dry like nuts, seeds, ladoos, khakra, energy bars, nachos, crackers, banana chips, or a perfect fruit like a banana that comes in its own wrapper! It has to be easy to carry; it definitely shouldn’t leak, stain, or spill.
Of course, it should ideally be easy to prepare. We do a mix of ready-to-eat stuff, like nuts. And I’m a big fan of homemade ladoos and energy bars. That way I also have total control over the ingredients . We get our khakras from Organic Treats in Mumbai. (Zanu is obsessed!)
2. Anything specific from the nutritional point-of-view that you watch out for?
I think adding nutrient density to every bite is super important, not just for snacks but even for your meals. This could include sprinkling seeds on salads, adding chicken broth, or fermented foods to dals and doughs. Nut butters and nutritional yeast are great add-ins to snacks.
3. Are there any specific ingredients you prefer or avoid?
I follow Michael Pollan’s three simple rules while buying food: don’t eat what your grandmother doesn’t recognise as food, don’t buy anything with more than five ingredients, and don’t buy anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
4. Have your/your toddler's preferences for on-the-go snacks changed as she's become older? How has it changed?
Oh totally! These days it’s anything in a packet or a bottle over homemade, even though according to me the homemade stuff tastes way better. So if you are forced to give them things from a packet, there are actually several conscientious kids’ food brands that are making an effort to use quality ingredients and follow a general zero-junk policy. So, for instance, an unsweetened yoghurt milkshake is better than an overly sweetened chocolate one, or ragi pops are definitely better than cheese balls.
5. Do you prefer store-bought snacks or do you prefer to prepare them?
We do both! As I mentioned earlier, I love making ladoos and energy bars. (We make our own muesli, so it’s easy.) I also make banana chips and home.made nachos! Those crunchy puffs or pops are impossible to replicate at home, so I usually buy those.
6. Which are your go-to store-bought snacks? Could you give us your top five?
Here you go!
Snack Doodles Bites in Banana Choco Chip or Strawberry Apple flavours
7. How about your go-to home-made snacks? Could you give us your top five? Would you like to share recipes for these?
Sure, and you can find all the recipes listed at the bottom of this page.
Sweet Potato Fries
8. Any instance where you were stuck on the go without snacks? Tell us about your experience.
We are usually quite well prepared as parents but I remember being in Parvati Valley on a very extended trek when Zanu was a baby, and very thankful we had our Ella’s Kitchen Pouches! And that I was still breastfeeding!
9. Tell us about your on-the-go snack essentials.
Zanu’s snack dabba usually has a fruit (banana or passion fruit are our faves), some nuts and dry fruits, and something dry like a khakra, biscuit, or ladoo. We carry portable cutlery, stainless steel straws, and a napkin wherever we go.
10. Final question: snack-box or tiffin - which one?
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder/chaat masala
1/2 teaspoon haldi powder
Mixer: Combine all ingredients in a mixer and blitz them.
Store: Store in an airtight container.
For the Banana Chips: 2–4 Raw Bananas
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Haldi
2 cups water
1 tsp haldi
1 tsp salt
Coconut oil for frying/brushing
Prep: Make a cut in the banana and peel the skin.
Soak: Soak these slices in 2 cups of water with 1 tsp haldi and 1/2 tsp salt for 15–30 minutes.
Slice: Pat dry the bananas nicely and slice in the shape of your choice (my preference: rounds and long strips) with a peeler or mandoline, or cut super-thin.
Haldi water: Combine 1 cup of water, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp haldi to add to the oil while frying.
Fry: If frying, heat coconut oil in a kadhai and put the banana slices in. After a couple of minutes, add a splash of haldi brine while frying. Remove once nice and crisp.
Air fry: If using an air fryer, preheat the air fryer at 180°C and cook the banana chips for 6–7 minutes. Keep checking after every 3–4 minutes, or until they are crispy.
Cool down: Let them sit for sometime and crisp up more! Sprinkle with BBQ seasoning.
1 cup water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 cup corn flour
4 tbsp atta or whole wheat flour
A pinch of turmeric
For Cheese Sauce
1 cup milk
2 cups grated cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup tomato, chopped
2 tbsp onion, chopped
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
2 tbsp spring onion, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 tbsp olive oil
In a large saucepan, heat water. Once hot, add corn flour, turmeric, salt, and baking powder to the saucepan, and mix well until all the flour comes together into a dough.
Once it forms a dough, cover the pan, take it off the stove, and leave it to steam for 6–8 minutes.
Take the dough out into a bowl, and to it add the whole wheat flour and knead the dough.
Rest the dough for 10 minutes.
Take a clean plastic bag or cling film, oil it lightly, roll out it thin, and cut into triangles.
Heart the air fryer to 160°C for 8 minutes. Or, heat the oven to 180°C for 10–15 minutes. You could also deep fry them in oil at a low temperature to cook well and crispy.
Heat milk slightly (don’t boil), and add cheese and the other ingredients.
Keep whisking slowly till it melts into a thick cheese sauce. If it gets too thick, add a little more milk just before serving.
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup maple syrup or coconut nectar
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1.5 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
1 tbsp cacao nibs
1 tsp dried rose petals
1/2 tsp sea salt
Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 20–25 minutes.
4 cups besan (organic, recommended)
1 cup raw sugar (measure after powdering)
1.5 cups ghee (already in semi liquid form at room temperature)
1/4 cup almonds , soaked, peeled, and chopped
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1 tbsp cardamom and nutmeg powder (add more to taste)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2-3 tbsp cold milk
On a low-to-medium flame, add 1.5 tbsp of ghee and all the besan. Keep stirring and adding ghee bit by bit. Once it reaches a liquid, porridge consistency (30 minutes), wait for the colour to change. It will happen quickly, so be careful not to burn it.
Once it’s the colour you want, add salt, nuts, raisins, and then the cold milk. It will almost seize like a caramel. Cool under a fan till it's warm enough to touch.
While still warm, add the sugar and cardamom & nutmeg powder. Knead with your hands and start making ladoos while still warm.
They will be soft and weird shaped but pop them into the fridge for 10 minutes and then reshape into perfect balls!
2 large sweet potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Prep: Preheat your oven or air-fryer to 200°C. Line your baking tray with parchment paper or brush it with olive oil.
Cut: Cut the sweet potatoes into finger-sized sticks (batons).
Coat: Add the sweet potatoes in a mixing bowl, and toss with olive oil and cumin powder.
Bake: Transfer to a lined baking tray and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until golden, turning halfway through.
Air fryer: Brush the air-fryer basket with olive oil. Place the cut sweet potatoes with enough space on the sides. Cook for 10–15 min and turn halfway through. Keep an eye on them as all air fryers are different when it comes to temperature.
Shilarna Vaze, also known as Chef Chinu, is a chef, a cookbook author, a TV host, and a content creator. She works in Mumbai but lives in Goa with her daughter Zanskar, her husband Chris, and their cat Fleur. Her second book, on baby and toddler food, is due to be released in March 2023 by Harper Collins. You can find her on Instagram @chefchinuvaze.