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Energy Vs Nutrient Dense Foods

When your diary is filling with last minute (or you knew months ago but it’s snuck up) concerts, sports presentations, school events, work deadlines, family and friends catch ups, all your awesome meal planning and prep can fly out the window……

Never fear, we have some tips here!

First, let’s back up to the why….. Why is it important to consider if the foods I’m offering the kids are more energy dense or more nutrient dense?

  1. Energy is important, especially for kids. Often energy dense foods are easier to get our hands on quickly, when they want sooooo many snacks through the day. They often come in packets for travelling and the kids will often eat them.

  2. Nutrient dense foods mean they are packed with more of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that bodies need to function well. These micronutrients are important for all the behind the scenes work – enzyme reactions for growth processes, hormone production, immune system function and healthy cellular energy production.

“Great, but I’m busy” you say. That’s why I’ve put together this list of easy swaps that will increase the more nutrient dense foods in the diet of your household, without lots of time baking and preparing amazing healthy food (save that for when you have a little more time to enjoy it). And the kids will still often eat it, even if they take a few times to adjust to the change in options offered to them.

Pick one of these snacks at a time to swap until it is part of your routine and household habits:

​More Energy Dense Option

More Nutrient Dense Option

Crackers and dip or spread or cheese

Fruit or vegetable sticks with dip or spread (eg apple or pear and cheese / Carrot (whole, sticks, rounds) and dip / Celery and nut spread

Flavoured yoghurt or custards

Chia pudding with fresh fruit, or cocoa (chocolate flavoured) *Still a good source of calcium, protein and good oils (recipe below)


Homemade popcorn, salted with Celtic sea salt or Himalayan rock salt (recipe below)

Peanut based nut bars

Pumpkin seeds up to 1 handful per day

or raw nuts and/or seeds about 1 handful per day

More bread or pasta to bulk up a meal (eg. sausage on bread or pasta with cheese)

Green leafies and/or salad to add texture and colour (eg greens, tomato, cucumber, carrot, chickpeas). Or add 2-3 different vegetables

Packet snacks in the bag each morning for hungry little ones

Bananas come in their own packaging, or if you have a container handy take some of last night’s left over corn on the cob, carrot or cucumber sticks, snow peas, etc.

Store bought pre-made cakes or muffins

​Homemade (even lower sugar packet mix) brownies or muffins with ½-1 cup leftover vegetables (mashed if steamed or cooked, grated finely if raw) added before cooking in the oven



Homemade Popcorn:


  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernals

  • 4-5 tablespoons coconut oil

  • Celtic sea salt or Himalyan rock salt (to taste)


  1. Heat a saucepan with lid over a medium heat

  2. Add 4-5 tablespoons of coconut oil to the saucepan

  3. Test if oil is ready by adding 1 popcorn kernal, if it sizzles and bubbles it’s ready

  4. Add ½ cup popcorn kernals to the saucepan, coat with the warm oil in the pan by stirring or shaking

  5. Cover with lid and wait a minute or two for it to start popping

  6. When the ‘pops’ slow down it is ready to remove from the heat (keep lid on)

  7. When pops have stopped for a while, carefully remove lid

  8. Add popcorn to an airtight container to store, or a bowl to serve

  9. Salt with celtic sea salt or Himalayan rock salt to your taste, shaking to mix salt through

  10. Enjoy!

Chia Pudding:


  • 1 cup coconut milk

  • 1/3 cup chia seeds

  • 1 teaspoon to tablespoon of raw honey


  • 1 dessertspoon cocoa or cacao powder if you wish to make it chocolate flavoured

  • Fresh fruit to serve


  1. Add these ingredients to a bowl and mix thoroughly

  2. Divide into 3 containers you wish to store or serve the pudding in

  3. Refrigerate overnight

  4. If you are making fruit flavoured, add fresh fruit when you are serving or packing into lunchboxes

  5. Enjoy!

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