To help in the regular challenge of serving our kids healthier snacks and meals, I found this article from Parents.Com to be super helpful and chock-full of yummy ideas. Give it a read and give some of the snacks a try. You may be amazed at what new favorites your kids may have!
Parent’s Guide to Healthy Snacking
By Sally Kuzemchak
10 Principles of Healthy Eating
Principles of Healthy Noshing
Before you serve up a mid-morning or afternoon snack, use this checklist of tips from Jodie Shield, R.D., coauthor of American Dietetic Association Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids.
- Time it right. Snacks should complement meals–not replace them. Offer them at regular times each day, at least 1 1/2 hours before a meal.
- Serve snacks in the kitchen, and eliminate any distractions (such as television, video games, and computers) that can lead to mindless overeating.
- Pump it up. For maximum nutrients, aim for at least two food groups in each snack. Some to try: breadsticks and cheese, celery and peanut butter, or our Sunshine Smoothie.
- Practice what you preach. You can’t expect your child to learn to eat healthy snacks if you’re munching on a candy bar. Be a good role model.
- Think outside the snack-food box. In a rut? Serve hard-boiled eggs, a whole-wheat tortilla with cheese, or our Mini Pizzas.
- Encourage shelf-control. Is your child old enough to raid the snack cabinet? She’ll want what she can see and reach, so put nutritious staples front and center and sweets and chips out of sight.
- Travel smart. When you’re in the car, bring items such as string cheese, mini bags of pretzels and dry cereal, juice boxes, and baby carrots in a small cooler or insulated lunch box.
- Push protein. Keep your child satisfied by including some protein in his between-meal nibbles, such as cheese, peanut butter, and single-serving cans of tuna.
- Prevent cavities. Encourage your child to brush her teeth–or at least rinse her mouth with water–after snacks.
- Relax! Keep in mind that a few cookies or chips are fine–it’s the long-term quality of your child’s diet that counts.
Homemade With Love
Kids love all the bells, whistles, and cartoon-themed packaging of supermarket snacks. But if you’re looking for more economical–and nutritious–ways to fuel your little ones, try making fun snacks at home that seem a little more special. Here are some easy ways to do it.
Fill tiny, colorful storage containers with our crunchy Kids’ Snack Mix. Other good options: cheese and crackers, pea pods and dip, mini cookies, or dried fruit.
Pack mini resealable plastic bags with your child’s favorites. That way, you can control portion sizes.
Serve snacks in unexpected ways. Pour cereal and milk into a mug, freeze some single-serve containers of applesauce, make a “painter’s palate” by putting dabs of flavored yogurt on a plate and serving it with graham crackers.
Kids’ Snack Pyramid
Not sure what’s truly healthy and what should be saved for an occasional treat? Use our exclusive pyramid to help plan your child?s snacks each week.
Only for a special treat: candy, chocolate, cheese puffs, potato chips, taco chips, cookies, toaster pastries, cupcakes, snack cakes, doughnuts, french fries, soda.
Fine 3 or 4 times a week: pretzels, ice cream, frozen yogurt, snack crackers, frozen pizza bagels, pudding, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, granola bars, ice pops, fruit juice.
Good for everyday: whole-wheat crackers, unsweetened cereal, cut-up vegetables, fresh fruit, dried fruit, string cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, breadsticks.
There’s an epidemic of childhood obesity in our country, so being aware of portion sizes is especially important, says Christine Williams, M.D., director of the Children’s Cardiovascular Health Center at Columbia University, in New York City. Kids currently get 25 percent of their daily calories from snacks, compared to 20 percent decades ago. “Kids need to snack, but extra snacks can add up to extra weight,” Williams says. Her daily recommendation: Stick to three 100- to 150-calorie snacks for preschoolers and two 200-calorie snacks for school-age children.
100-150 Calorie Snacks
1 cup applesauce
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1 oz. string cheese with crackers
1 slice whole-grain toast with low-fat spread
1 cup cereal and milk
200 Calorie Snacks
Veggies and low-fat dip
2 rice cakes and peanut butter
1/2 cup trail mix
1/2 sandwich with lean meat on whole-wheat bread
Baked potato with cheese
Fill-in-the-Gap SnacksDid your child skip milk at lunch? Not eat her apple? Here are some essential nutrients and foods she might be missing, plus treats that will pick up the slack.
Why kids need it: Calcium is crucial for proper growth and bone building during childhood. Eleven percent of 1- to 3-year-olds and 40 percent of 4- to 8-year-olds don’t get enough.
Power snacks: Calcium-fortified mini waffles; ice-cream cone filled with yogurt; mixed cereal and fruit; chunks of banana dipped in yogurt and rolled in cereal; pretzel sticks with cheese cubes on either end.
Fruits and vegetables
Why kids need them: They’re packed with vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants. Plus, they’re low in calories and fat-free–and help keep kids hydrated.
Power snacks: A fruit and veggie smiley face on a plate (use peanut butter as the “glue”); baked chips and salsa; Apricot Cookie Bars.
Why kids need it: Protein helps build muscle needed during peak growth. It also helps fight infection.
Power snacks: A piece of ham rolled around string cheese; hard-boiled-egg wedges; peanut butter spread on apple slices; whole-wheat pita cut into quarters and spread with bean dip.
Why kids need it: High-fiber diets tend to be healthier overall–in part because fiber-rich foods boast more nutrients and prevent overeating. Fiber also reduces constipation.
Power snacks: Wheat germ sprinkled into yogurt and ice cream; whole-wheat tortillas spread with hummus; raisin bran and milk.
Supermarket Snack ChecklistPrepackaged snacks are often a necessity for busy moms–and there are tons of just-for-kids products on store shelves these days. So what’s nutritious, and what’s not? Things like prepacked baby carrots and boxes of raisins are no-brainers. But you may have to do some label sleuthing before you buy other foods. Here’s what to check:
- Serving size: Is the size appropriate for your child, or will she eat more? Many “snack-size” packages actually contain multiple servings. If so, be prepared to divide them up at home.
- Fat: “There’s little evidence that reduced-fat and fat-free products help kids maintain or lose weight,” Shield says. Besides, fat is often replaced with more sugar. She advises going low-fat with staples, such as milk and yogurt, but choosing full-fat cookies or treats and keeping portions reasonable.
- Fiber: Whole grains are your best choice when selecting breads, crackers, cereals, and other high-carb foods. Look for at least 2 to 3 grams of fiber per serving.
- Ingredient list: “The longer the list, the more processed that food probably is,” says Deanna Rose, R.D., spokesperson for the National Dairy Council.
The Truth About Sugar
You know that sugar is packed into the usual snack suspects: candy, cookies, cupcakes. But it’s also added to yogurt, granola bars, and fruit cocktail. After all, manufacturers realize what parents have long known: Kids naturally prefer sweet foods. Though sugar’s off the hook for causing hyperactivity and other behavior problems, it’s still linked to cavities and has even been blamed in part for the rise in obesity rates. So it makes sense to keep an eye on intake.
In general, experts advise choosing snacks in their purest form–in other words, without candy sprinkles and bubble-gum flavoring. When reading labels, steer clear of foods that list sugar (or one of its aliases, such as corn syrup) among the first few ingredients. Sometimes you can switch to lower-sugar versions without your child noticing a difference–low-sugar peanut butter, for instance. But with other foods, a spoonful of sugar often helps the nutrients go down. In fact, according to a recent University of Vermont study, children who drank flavored milk consumed more milk–and higher levels of calcium. “It’s all a balancing game,” Shield says. If your child will only eat yogurt with added sugar, be thankful he?s getting a healthy dose of protein and calcium–but pass on other sugary foods that day.
- Healthy Snacks for Kids: Recipes, School Snacks, and More (webmd.com)
- Help Your Child Grow Healthy and Strong (education.com)
- 10 Best After-School Snacks (everydayhealth.com)
- 10 Healthy After School Snack Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank (education.com)
- EatingWell: The #1 Snack You Should Eat This Year (And The Top Snack to Skip) (huffingtonpost.com)