Turn Your Child Into a Smart Snacker
With a little encouragement, your kids will learn to love healthy snacks.
There’s nothing wrong with eating between meals. In fact, many doctors and nutritionists recommend snacking to curb hunger and prevent overeating at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Children in particular often need snacks because their little tummies aren’t designed to take in a ton of food at mealtimes. In fact, snacking can be a way for you to ensure that your child is getting the nutrients that he or she needs.
Healthy Snacks: Great Ideas for Children’s Health
As with regular meals, the food that makes a healthy snack is whole-grain, unrefined, and low in fat and added sugars. “Snacks should consist of foods that combine protein and high-fiber fruit or carbohydrates,” says Jatinder Bhatia, MBBS, professor and chief of the section of neonatology at the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia. Kid-friendly healthy snacks include:
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Carrot sticks with hummus
- Grapes and cheddar cheese
- Sliced turkey on wheat bread
- Snack mix made with raisins, nuts, and whole wheat cereal
- Whole grain tortilla or bagel with low-fat cheese or cream cheese
- Bean burrito on a whole-wheat tortilla
- Small salad with lean meat or tuna
- Cut-up fruit or easily portable whole fruit, such as apples, oranges, or clementines
- Steamed sliced sweet potato with cinnamon
- Whole grain cereal, dry or with milk
- Low-fat yogurt with fresh berries
Healthy Snacks: Keep Them Convenient
A key to encouraging healthy snacking habits is to make the right foods readily available to your child. Follow these tips to make your household healthy-snack central:
- Allow your child to help you choose healthy snacks at the grocery store.
- Have easy-to-eat fruits such as apples and bananas within view on the counter.
- Keep unhealthy options like chips and cookies on hard-to-reach shelves and tucked into the back of cabinets. Or better yet, don’t bring them into the house at all!
- Put whole-grain crackers and other smart choices for children’s health on the shelves that your child can reach.
- Prepare cut-up vegetables like carrots or celery sticks in advance for easy munching.
Healthy Snacks or Stealthy Snacks?
Some parents work around their children’s aversion to vegetables by sneaking them into more “fun” foods. This includes pureeing vegetables like broccoli or sweet potatoes and hiding them in muffins, breads or other foods children find easier to stomach. While this is a viable last resort for getting a child to eat the daily essentials, many pediatric dieticians encourage a more above-board approach, to set the best example for future decision-making.
“When I first heard about this technique, my response was it's better to serve vegetables outwardly. If you hide them your child will never want to eat them,” says Janet M. de Jesus, MS, RD, a nutrition education specialist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “But being a mom, my kid doesn’t eat all the vegetables I want her to. So while I have used the hiding technique, I also still serve a vegetable on my child’s plate at every lunch and dinner. Even if she doesn’t always eat it, I keep offering.”
So make sure you surround your child with healthy snacks, be patient if she rejects some choices, and keep trying. You’re bound to come up with some healthy choices she’ll love to snack on.
Last reviewed: March 2, 2009 | Last updated: March 2, 2009 This section created and produced exclusively by the editorial staff of EverydayHealth.com. © 2009 EverydayHealth.com; all rights reserved.