Food keeps us going. We need it to survive, grow, and stay energized. We eat to live, though some of us live to eat. Whether you are a gourmand with a well-trained palate or just an Average Joe who enjoys burgers and fries, there’s no denying the communal joy of good food.
Kids probably have the most discerning palates. If there’s something a child does not like, they will make it known. Unfortunately, parents often inundate kids’ diets with excessively salty meals and sugary treats. Aside from completely ruining the tastes buds, most of these foods don’t contain the necessary vitamins and nutrients that a child—or any human being—needs.
This, unfortunately, leads to overweight or even obese children. Believe it or not, one in three kids in the United States is overweight. Obesity puts kids at risk for asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Furthermore, obesity often causes low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
Snacking between meals is completely fine and, at times, necessary, but there are right and wrong ways to provide your kids with snacks. Here are some tips for healthy snacks to pack your kids for school and other fun outings.
First off, look through your pantry and clean out all those unhealthy junk foods. Throw out the cookies, chips, candy, and soda pop. Sugary, high-fat junk foods are just that: junk. They don’t provide any health benefits and are overall detrimental to a child’s insides.
When done smartly, snacking is a great strategy for introducing nutrients into a child’s diet as kids have smaller stomachs and often have trouble finishing large meals. Healthy snacks give kids energy between meals and help focus attention and regulate mood.
As bad as junk food is, under certain circumstance, it’s okay to indulge, but this should be a rare treat.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
This should be your main focus and the crux of the snacking menu. Buy raw vegetables, clean and cut them, and keep them in your fridge for easy access.
Fruits don’t need much preparation. Just make sure to buy organic fruits that are in season. For even more flavor, you can slice up apples or bananas and serve them with almond or peanut butter for dipping. However, make sure to read the labels on peanut butter jars. Many peanut butters contain excess sugar or preservatives—look for “all natural” variations that contain just peanuts—no sugar, hydrogenated oils, etc.
Fruit smoothies are delicious and healthy, making them perfect alternatives to sodas and overly sweet drinks. Don’t forget about water. Let your kids choose their own reusable water bottle that they’ll be excited to use. Add a splash of 100% juice such as apple or orange to add refreshing flavor.
Include your kids in the process. Teach your kids to make healthy vegetable dips, hummus, and salad dressings. When visiting your local grocery store or farmer’s market, have your kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable that they would like to try.
Of course, even with all those fruits and veggies, your kids still need some protein, but chicken nuggets and hot dogs are not the healthiest options.
For kids on the go, low fat cheese sticks make a great, pre-portioned snack. Serve yogurt topped with low sugar cereals or fresh fruit bits. Low fat sliced deli meats can be wrapped around a breadstick or stalks of asparagus. Have your kids make their own trail mix with different assortments of nuts and dried fruits.
Rounding off the healthy snack diet are the grains. As with all other snacks, stray away from junk foods. Most junk foods—chips, pretzels, cookies, and such—are made up of refined grains. The calories from refined grains can stack up very quickly, while the lack of fiber will keep your kids looking for more snacks. There’s nothing good about any of this.
Healthy grains give your kids tons of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and consist of foods like:
- Whole wheat bread or English muffins
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Rice cakes
When it comes to popcorn, avoid those heavy in butter and salts. As for cereals, keep away from the sweet stuff. Cereal should not taste like candy.
A fun, healthy snack for kids is English muffin pizzas. Top whole wheat English Muffin halves with tomato sauce, low fat cheese, and their favorite vegetables. Your kids won’t even know that they’re eating healthy.