by Mike Levinson
Snacking is a major activity for many kids, and that’s not necessarily bad. Nutritious snacking can help your child curb hunger throughout the day, as well as provide energy and important nutrients. Find out how to make healthy snacks for kids.
1. Keep junk food out of the house
Your child won’t crave for cookies, candy bars or chips if you don’t keep them onhand. Set a good example by choosing healthy snacks yourself.
2. Go for the grain
Whole-grain foods–whole-grain pretzels or tortillas and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals–provide energy with some staying power.
3. Mix and match
Serve baby carrots or other raw veggies with fat-free ranch dressing or hummus. Dip graham cracker sticks or fresh fruit in fat-free yogurt. Spread peanut butter on celery, apples or bananas.
4. Broaden the menu
Offer out-of-the-usual fare, such as avocado, pineapple, cranberries, red or yellow peppers or mangoes. Have kids choose a few foods and mix them together for a colorful snack.
5. Eat breakfast anytime
Serve breakfast foods as healthy snacks for kids in the afternoon. Consider dried cereal mixed with dried fruit and nuts or microwaveable oatmeal made with low-fat milk and mixed with unsweetened applesauce and cinnamon.
6. Sweeten it up
Healthy snacks for kids don’t have to be bland. To satisfy your child’s sweet tooth, offer lower sugar greek yogurt. Make smoothies with milk, plain yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit.
7. Have fun
Use a cookie cutter to make shapes out of low-fat cheese slices, whole-grain bread or whole-grain tortillas. Make fruit kebabs or show your child how to eat diced fruit with chopsticks. Make a tower out of whole-grain crackers, spell words with pretzel sticks or make funny faces on a plate using different types of fruit.
8. Promote independence
Keep a selection of ready-to-eat veggies in the refrigerator. Leave fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter. Store low-sugar, whole-grain cereal and fruit, canned or packaged, in its own juice in an easily accessible cabinet.
9. Don’t be fooled by labeling gimmicks
Foods marketed as low-fat or fat-free can still be high in calories and sodium. Likewise, foods touted as cholesterol-free can still be high in fat, saturated fat and sugar. Check nutrition labels to find out the whole story.
10. Designate a snacking zone
Restrict snacking to certain areas, such as the kitchen, and avoid connecting eating with screen time. You’ll save your child countless calories from mindless munching. If your child needs to snack on-the-go, offer a banana, string cheese, yogurt sticks, cereal bars, carrot sticks or other drip-free items.
Teaching your child to make healthy snack choices now will help set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Mike Levinson, a Calabasas resident, is a former amateur bodybuilding champion and registered dietitian who holds dual degrees in sports nutrition and physical education. He has worked extensively as a nutritionist with the California Angels baseball team and with famous athletes such as Charles Oakley, JT Snow and Sean Rooks. He also worked as a nutritionist for the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders.