Growing bodies need nourishment and it is important kids get the right nutrition. Ensuring they eat healthy snacks can get them on the right track for a healthy lifestyle.
If your kids are like most, you probably are very familiar with hearing the phrase “I’m hungry!” multiple times throughout the course of a day. Many kids prefer to eat frequent smaller meals during the day as opposed to adults who may approach eating with traditional three square meals. These times typically may not fall at breakfast, lunch or dinner time, but during those in between hours.
Enter snack time. It is easy for kids to want to gravitate towards bagged or boxed snacks, but unfortunately many of the “fun” food ideas marketed towards children nowadays are not very healthy for them.
Sure, you can give them carrots and celery sticks, but after a while kids may get bored of the same healthy snacks that aren’t laden in sugar or sweetness.
The good news is you can effectively combat those colorful and eye alluring commercials and attractive grocery displays laced with sugar, salt and fat, and replace those foods with healthier and more exciting alternatives.
A good trick is to start introducing healthy snacks to their taste buds when kids are young and before their impressionable eyes are led right to the unhealthy stuff. However, even if they’ve reached the age where they are more attracted to boxed and bagged junk foods, there are many great ways to make even the healthiest foods look and taste good. The best part is many of them are just as appealing as sugar, salt and fat laden snacks.
Home Baked Goods
Cookies and brownies are a big hit with kids. Unfortunately when packaged, these snacks are usually loaded with sugar, preservatives, dyes or other unhealthy ingredients. If you have the time to make these at home, you can ensure only the best ingredients reach their tiny bellies.
You can create delicious snacks such as cookies, muffins, brownies and cupcakes using whole grain flours and lesser amounts of sugar. Additionally you can vary it up by trying substitutions for sugar with other sweeteners, such as applesauce, and still keep the great taste of these perennial favorites.
Oatmeal cookies are easy to make using all natural ingredients (and you can even throw in some raisins for additional sweetness). Muffins are a terrific option because you can add healthy ingredients such as blueberries, bananas, and nuts to name a few. Muffins and cookies are great because you can experiment and try different flavors.
Another advantage to baking your own snacks is the kids can participate, help choose the ingredients and engage in a fun family activity. The younger kids can help stir, and older kids can help with cracking eggs and measuring ingredients. Preparing baked goods is a great way to spend time together and the end results are great tasting snacks. Kids are likely more inclined to eat something they’ve played a part in the preparation.
Fresh fruits are sweet, juicy and taste wonderful. You can cut, mash and create snack masterpieces using different kinds of fruits. Since fruits are attractive in color, most kids find fruit appealing.
You can keep it simple by cutting up some apple slices or for a more filling snack make a banana and peanut butter sandwich. You can make a colorful fruit salad made up of your kids’ favorites to give a variety of taste and texture in one snack.
The best part of fruit as a snack is how easy it is! Not much mess, few dishes and kids typically adore the flavors derived from various fruit creations.
When kids hear the word vegetable they usually groan and turn their noses up at the notion, but even fresh veggies are attractive to kids with the right approach.
Give most kids a dip to accompany their veggies and they’ll be drawn to fresh produce such as celery, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes and carrots. Dipping is fun, and the more colorful, the better! You can also experiment with different flavors to find the ones which are most preferred by your kids.
Kids love to peel fresh peas out of the pod and the smaller peas are sweeter and taste like nature’s own candy. If you arrange the vegetables on a plate in smiley faces or other fun arrangements, this can make veggies appear even more attractive. Or why not let your kids design their own funny faces!
There are many healthful snack options in the dairy food group. Kids love, and are often normally drawn to, foods such as yogurt, cheese, and pudding. The nice thing about dairy is many of these foods have low-fat versions available which are just as tasty as the fat heavy ones.
You can toss a few blueberries or chocolate chips into plain or vanilla yogurt, or scoop some yogurt into a “fancy” dessert dish and put a dollop of whipped cream on top to make it resemble an ice cream sundae. Cheese sticks are usually a hit with children too. Cream cheese is another fun spreadable treat which can be served with crackers, bagel chips, or veggies.
Many brands of crackers contain healthy ingredients and most grocery stores have an assortment to choose from. There’s cheese, whole wheat, grain and the ever faithful Saltine type variety. These are low in sugar and typically are available in reduced fat too to cut back on unhealthy saturated fats. Crackers are quick, easy and filling foods, and particularly good for those on the run days.
If you don’t have the time to invest in baking or don’t have any fresh ingredients on hand, other good alternatives to keep in the pantry are rice cakes, pretzels, granola bars and trail mix.
Trail mix is a lot of fun because you can make your own and let the kids help pick the ingredients. On a day you have some time, fix several portions and seal them in baggies or plastic containers for another day. You can toss in cereal, raisins, nuts, pretzels, or granola (and even a few M&M’s or other small candy won’t hurt).
A great thing about many of these foods is they can be combined with each other to make fun choices. You can serve yogurt and fruit, cheese and crackers, and even make milkshakes using fruit, yogurt, or milk. If you have a decent blender, the sky’s the limit on creating healthy, fun and refreshing milkshakes.
Kids today are constantly exposed to commercialized unhealthy foods and parents often have to work hard to keep these foods from becoming a staple in their children’s diets.
One of the best ways to keep snacks healthy and fun is to let the kids be involved. If they get to help pick the fruit, or stir the batter, they’ll be more inclined to want to eat something they’ve been a part of. After all, making choices is a part of the fun!