By Pam Filbin
Now that school is well under way, many parents have reached the point of needing new ideas for what to offer their child in the way of healthy snacks. When your child comes home every day, it is better to have a healthier snack waiting for them to keep them from going for the potato chips or cookies.
If the right foods are offered, snacks can play an important part in managing kids’ hunger and boosting nutrition. Without snacks, it can be difficult for some children to achieve their daily nutrition needs and have enough energy to keep going and growing. The need for growth is what makes it so important for kids to eat frequently, including snacks.
But it’s not just what you offer as a snack, but when and how much. You need to be aware of portion sizes and when your child is snacking. You don’t want the snacks to interfere with meal time. Kids who are allowed to nibble all day long have difficulty determining when and if they are hungry – an important factor in maintaining a healthy weight in childhood and later on.
So, how do you snack healthy? The following are some very easy guidelines:
- Keep it simple! Make it fresh and have a variety. (fruits and veggies cut and ready to eat with hummus)
- Have a variety and balance Select food from all food groups and keep stocked (low-fat granola, yogurt, trail mix, whole grain bagels)
- Limit sugary, fatty snacks Snack on fruits dipped in low-fat yogurt, veggies, nuts, raisins, air-popped corn, low-sugar whole-grain cereal, hard boiled eggs (no candy, chips, etc.)
A few tips:
1. Keep junk food out of the house.
2. Go for the whole-grain foods.
3. Mix and match (i.e. peanut butter on celery or apples).
4. Introduce new items on your menu.
5. Sweet is OK, too! (i.e. frozen yogurt, frozen fruit bars, smoothies).
6. Have breakfast again (i.e. eggs and whole-grain toast as a snack).
7. Make it fun! (use cookie cutters, make fruit kabobs, make faces on a plate).
8. Promote independence (keep healthy items available and accessible).
9. Don’t be fooled – read labels (check nutrition labels for the whole story).
10. Designate a snacking area (i.e. keep snacks in the kitchen to avoid mindless snacking).
Finding healthy snacks to serve your child can often be a challenge. But if you set an example early on, kids will be more likely to continue healthy eating in the future when reaching for a snack to satisfy a hunger pang.