Getting Snacks in Shape
Forget chips, pizza bites or cookies—snacking on nutritious foods that give children the fuel they need can be a building block to establishing healthy eating habits for life.
By the time school lets out for the day, many children are famished and in need of a snack to hold them over until dinnertime. For parents caught in the crunch of a tight schedule shuttling kids to after-school sports or activities, dashing to get fast food or grabbing chips can seem like the easiest option.
Finding time to prepare and pack flavorful, healthy snacks may seem impossible, but there are quick options—such as fruit, trail mix, whole-grain crackers, or protein-rich snacks such as peanut butter or low-fat yogurt or cheese—that can help keep a child’s mind alert and energy levels high. Keep a small cooler or lunch bag stocked in the fridge, ready to grab and go, along with bottled water to stem the urge to drink soda or other sugary drinks.
Take the Edge Off
“Start by not buying or keeping processed foods or snacks in the house—period,” explains Marsha Flowers, MHS, RD, LD, clinical nutrition manager at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. "This minimizes the urge to grab and eat something unhealthy."
“Parents can encourage children to eat different foods by modeling good snack behaviors. Fresh fruit or cut-up veggies such as baby carrots, celery or broccoli served with a hummus dip or low-calorie ranch dressing are great, easy options and can be purchased from the grocery store ready to eat.”
Flowers advises parents to allow their child to be involved in grocery shopping and help prepare and pack snacks for the next day.
“Children like to feel as if they have choices over their food options,” Flowers says. “Helping with food preparation gives them a feeling of ownership and encourages them to eat what they have made.”