Snack time is likely a part of your child's daily schedule — and that's not necessarily bad. Nutritious snacking can help curb your child's hunger throughout the day.
Regular healthy snacks also boost energy, and can help your child sneak in more of the nutrients essential for his or her growth and development. Here's how to whip up healthy — and tasty — snacks for kids.
1. Keep junk food out of the house
Your child won't clamor as much for cookies, candy bars or chips if they aren't around. Save desserts for special occasions rather than daily treats. Set a good example by eating healthy snacks — your child might follow suit.
2. Power up with protein
Protein will help your child feel fuller, longer. Stock your fridge with hard-boiled eggs, deli meat, and cooked chicken tenders or drumsticks. Serve up a steaming bowl of ramen noodles. For kids without nut allergies, offer nuts and nut butters.
3. Go for the grain
Whole-grain foods — such as whole-grain pretzels or tortillas and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals — provide energy with some staying power. Pair whole-wheat bread with a slice of cheese, deli meat or hummus for a satisfying snack.
4. Broaden the menu
Offer a rainbow of fruits and veggies, such as avocado, pineapple, cranberries, red or yellow peppers, or mangoes. Encourage kids to choose a few pieces of produce and mix them together for a colorful snack. Serve baby carrots or other crunchy veggies with fat-free ranch dressing or hummus. Dip graham cracker sticks or fresh fruit in yogurt. Spread peanut butter on celery, apples or bananas.
5. Revisit breakfast
Serve breakfast foods as afternoon snacks. Offer dried cereal mixed with fruit and nuts. Or microwave oatmeal with low-fat milk and mix it with unsweetened applesauce and cinnamon.
6. Sweeten it up
Satisfy your child's sweet tooth with low-fat puddings, frozen yogurt or frozen fruit bars. Serve smoothies made 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. Skewer 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 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 labeled as low-fat or fat-free can pack plenty of calories and sodium. And foods touted as cholesterol-free can still be high in fat, sodium and sugar. Check nutrition labels to find out the whole story and make a smart snack choice.
10. Designate a snacking zone
Only allow snacking in certain areas, such as the kitchen, and avoid serving snacks during screen time. You'll save your child countless calories from mindless munching. For snacks on the go, offer a banana, string cheese, yogurt sticks, cereal bars, carrot sticks or other less messy foods.
Schedule snacks so that they don't interfere with a healthy meal. Skip snacks and juice within two hours of mealtime so that your child is hungry enough to eat with gusto a balanced, nutritious meal.
Teaching your child to make healthy snack choices now will help set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Start today!