Make Snacks Count! How to Use Snacks to Keep Your Kids Healthy
Sometimes it seems hard to get all the needed nutrients into your child. Young children need to snack frequently throughout the day. They have small tummies and high energy needs. Older kids need lots of healthy food to keep up with their incredibly rapid growth in the teen years. (You should see my 15-year-old athlete son eat!). That’s why it can be a challenge to get your kids to eat all of the recommended servings of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
You can use your child’s need to snack to help you meet these nutritional goals. In other words, make snacks count!
Provide snacks that are healthy and fun. Make sure that your kid’s snacks are not junk or processed food, but good, simple, real food. Some examples include:
- Celery sticks with a side of cream cheese and raisins – young kids can create “ants on a log” and eat them!
- Apples and peanut butter-tofu dip. (½ cup tofu, ½ cottage cheese, 3 TBS peanut butter, 1 TBS honey, 1 TSP vanilla – process till smooth.)
- Tortilla chips and salsa.
- Dried fruit.
- Pretzels and small chunks of cheese – they can form building units by sticking the pretzels into the cheese before popping them in their mouths.
- Popcorn (preferably what you pop yourself, in canola or other healthy oil, or low-fat microwave popcorn).
- Fresh seasonal fruit, cut up into slices.
- Carrots, snap peas, cucumbers and a little low-fat ranch dressing for dipping.
- Applesauce or yogurt. (Look for lower sugar versions and try Greek yogurt for extra protein.)
- Smoothies made of yogurt, frozen bananas, a little orange juice, and berries.
- Banana bread, zucchini bread, or pumpkin muffins.
Children love to help you in the kitchen – they think it’s fun to eat what they cook! Use this willingness as a tool to get them to eat some healthy snacks.
- Bake some mini pumpkin muffins or zucchini bread. (Use whole wheat flour and canola oil, and add some flax meal to increase the nutritional value). Serve your baked goodies with a glass of skim milk.
- Try adding ½ cup pureed white beans to your favorite cookie recipe to add protein and fiber. (Really – they won’t notice!)
Offer snacks at sneaky times
If you let them watch TV, use that as a good snacking opportunity. Hand your child a bowl filled with an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies. Try carrot sticks, strawberries, black olives, bell peppers, and cucumbers. It’s amazing how much they’ll devour without even noticing!
Trust their appetite
One last word: While young kids often need a snack, some days they don’t. Children don’t grow as much some days as they do on other days – therefore their appetite changes. Your job is to offer the healthy snacks, and their job is to decide if they’re hungry enough to eat them. If not – it‘s okay. Your child will want some delicious snacks another day.
Some recipe ideas to try with your children:
Read more of our tips for healthy eating in this post: 10 Nutritional Soundbites
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