Yesterday I was working on an article about healthy snacks for the back-to-school issue of a local parenting publication. It’s odd to be writing about back-to-school when my kids still have two more weeks to go in this school year, but that is how editorial calendars work. The article was a natural fit for me: I am committed to finding healthy, convenient alternatives to highly processed snack foods for my kids. I’m not saying that my kids never eat Goldfish crackers or chewy granola bars. Of course they do. Like every parent, I sometimes need to fall back on convenience foods and these are the kind of snacks that kids like. But if you come to my house on a given day, you are just as likely to find some kind of homemade treat, be it breakfast cookies or yogurt cake, sitting on the counter ready to pack in a lunchbox or hand to a hungry child. These homemade snacks are just as popular with my kids and their friends as the store-bought ones, and they are a lot healthier.

Healthy snacking is all about planning ahead. If you bake a batch of muffins or whip up some homemade granola on the weekend, you will have healthy snacks on hand all week long. Homemade snack foods not only have the benefit of being free of mystery ingredients and preservatives, they also allow you to control the amount of sodium and sugar in your food. Plus, you can always increase the nutritional content by subbing whole wheat flour or adding healthy additions, like wheat germ. And if you recruit your kids to bake with you, you actually get two benefits: a fun family activity that kills a hour or two plus a healthy snack to enjoy all week long.

I created this recipe for Banana Yogurt Muffins as a way of using up some yogurt that was rapidly aging in my refrigerator and some bananas that were slightly past their prime. Muffins and quick breads have the benefit of being suitable for breakfast and for a snack any time of day. And recipes for these kind of foods are usually pretty forgiving. This recipe, for example, is really simple to put together and you don’t even need to use a standing mixer. You (or your kids) can stir the batter with a wooden spoon. Use whatever kind of yogurt you have on hand and feel free to add chopped nuts (if no one in your house is allergic), dried fruit or even mini chocolate chips — if you’re a really nice mom — to your muffin batter as you see fit. You can also top the muffins prior to baking with a streusel topping or simply some turbinado sugar.

Banana Yogurt Muffins

Makes approx. one dozen standard-size muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 TB baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 TB wheat germ (optional)

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup yogurt

6 TB vegetable oil or melted butter

1 TB vanilla extract

1 egg at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper cups. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices and wheat germ, if using. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil and brown sugar until well combined. Beat the egg and vanilla into the bowl with the oil and sugar. Add the mashed bananas and yogurt and stir well to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon just until combined. Do not overmix. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake 12-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

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Emily Paster

Emily Paster is a freelance writer and mother of two living in River Forest. She writes about food and parenting on her website, West of the Loop. Emily's print work appears frequently in Chicago Parent...