Snacking can be good for kids. In fact, since young kids can only eat small portions, snacks are an important part of their daily diets. What matters most is the quality of those snacks.
When chosen well, snacks can go a long way towards improving a child’s nutritional status.
Keep it Simple
Often, the very best snacks are the simplest ones. Fresh fruit, veggies, and whole grain crackers are all good choices. In general, the less processed a food is, the better it is for your body.
Happily, these foods are often the easiest to get and the most convenient to serve. It doesn’t get much easier than peeling a banana. Think basics.
Making Better Choices
To avoid unhealthy foods, become a label reader. Take a pass on snacks that contain trans fats. If the label says the product contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, don’t buy it.
Fat is not inherently unhealthy, but you do need to get fat from healthy sources, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil.
Many foods that kids are accustomed to eating are loaded with sugar and processed flour. When you find whole grain substitutions for the processed stuff, most kids won’t even notice the difference in taste, but whole grains are much healthier.
Sugary treats are fine occasionally, but for everyday snacking, choose naturally sweet fresh fruit to satisfy their cravings.
Fruit salad, unsweetened applesauce, raisins, peanut butter and all-fruit jam on whole wheat toast are pleasing to most kids and are things that parents can feel good about serving.
Low fat dairy products such as yogurt, some cheeses, or vegetable dips are also great snacking choices.
Make it Easy on Them
If you keep a ready supply of pre-cut veggies in the fridge and something to dip them into, the kids will gobble them up. If those same veggies require the kids to clean and chop them, you can expect to find them pushed to the back of the refrigerator until they grow fur.
Convenience foods are not all bad – just be sure to avoid those that are more sugar than real food.
Many food products that are marketed to appeal to children are nothing more than sweets with a healthier sounding name.
Fruit snacks are a prime example of this. If you check the labels on these products, most have very little or no fruit at all. Dried real fruits and healthy trail mixes are much better.
- Ants on a Log: Fill celery sticks with peanut butter and top with raisins. Very simple and kids love ’em!
- Yogurt Pops: Simply pour your favourite flavour of yogurt into small paper cups (the ones designed for use in bathrooms work perfectly), cover the cups with plastic wrap, insert a craft stick through the plastic and into the yogurt and freeze. Once frozen, remove the plastic wrap and peel away the paper cup. Enjoy! This works equally well by substituting your favourite fruit juice for the yogurt.
- Veggie Bowls: Cut a bell pepper in half sideways then remove and discard seeds. Cut one half of the pepper into strips and then cut a few other favourite veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery work well) into bite sized pieces. Pour a bit of salad dressing into the other half of the pepper so that you can dip your veggies. Yum!
- Tortilla Roll Ups: Warm a whole wheat tortilla and fill with reduced fat cheese, chicken or turkey luncheon meat, lettuce, and tomato. This filling snack is especially appreciated as an after school treat.