Healthy Kids, Healthy Snacks
Sometimes it seems like as soon as your little ones have finished breakfast, they're begging for something else to eat. And it's the same thing after lunch, mid-afternoon, early evening, when you're out running errands, etc., etc. Does this snacking cycle ever end? The real answer: Not really. In fact, as they get older and their appetites grow, your kids will want even more (and bigger) snacks. However, snacking is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, small, healthy between-meal munchies are great for helping to fuel children's growth and development. Besides, snacking serves another very good purpose: Anyone who's ever been near a hungry toddler knows that it's not a pretty sight.
Of course, that mythical "healthy snack" is often easier talked about than actually eaten. We'd all love to live in that magical fantasy world where two-year-olds sit calmly and quietly enjoying their celery sticks and broccoli florets in between sips of skim milk. But the reality is that those between-meal hunger pangs often strike when you're on the go, in the car, at the store or otherwise busy, and the easy thing to do is grab a cookie or some chips just to calm everybody down. This might solve the immediate problem, but it won't actually satisfy a hungry kid for long -- and it definitely won't provide many healthy nutrients.
Because kids get up to one third of their daily calories from snacks, it's important that they supplement and round out their daily diet -- a truly good snack will be good for your child, keeping hunger at bay while adding to their overall intake of healthy foods (oh, and bonus points if it's actually enjoyable too!). The good news is that small steps toward healthy snacking can have a really big impact:
- Become label savvy. Pre-packaged snacks are definitely convenient, but even those that may look healthy are often high in calories and low in nutrients. Learn to read labels and evaluate manufacturers' nutrition claims. See how the NuVal number stacks up, if the product has one.
- Make it easy. It requires a bit of work on the starting end, but making healthy snacks as convenient to eat on-the-go as possible will pay off. Chop up fruits and veggies as soon as you bring them home from the store and package them in individual snack-sized servings that are easy to bring with you.
- Refresh with H20. Serve your kids plenty of water instead of soda or juice drinks. If your kids are juice lovers, moderation is key -- look for brands that are made with 100 percent fruit.
- Small servings. It's important to monitor not only the content of your child's snack, but the quantity as well. Serve kid-size portions, and when you're at home be sure that snacks are eaten when sitting down instead of on the run.
Super Snack Ideas
When you're faced with a between-meal meltdown, it helps to have some healthy snack ideas on hand. Here are some suggestions to keep hunger at bay:
- Make your own trail mix with several types of whole grain cereal, dried fruit and nuts.
- Keep raisins, dates or dried apricots on hand to satisfy those sweet tooth attacks
- Let kids play with their food. Cut fruits, vegetables and cheese into silly shapes and let them make "art" on their plates.
- Roll a thin slice of turkey around a piece of string cheese
- Serve whole-wheat crackers with slices of cheese
- Spread peanut butter on apple slices, celery or crackers
- Let them tear into some pita bread and dip it in hummus
- Spread peanut butter and jelly on a rice cake for a crunchy treat