The Importance of Healthy Snacking for Kids

School’s out, which means lunches under shade trees, supplying the whole neighborhood with Popsicles, swatting mosquitoes off toddler’s legs, and the constant question: “Mom, can I have a snack?”

Kids are active all the time. But during the summer months, they tend to be more active than usual. Snacks, if done right, can help supply your kids with the extra calories, vitamins and minerals their active bodies need. But, if your offering of carrot sticks and yogurt dip is frowned upon, don’t worry! Make the food fun, and they will come.

First, let the kids make the decision on what snack they want. Pick a few healthy snacks, then let the kids choose. If they’ve made the decision, they are more likely to want to eat it. Then, get the kids involved in the food’s preparation.

Kids love to cook and help out in the kitchen. Older children can read recipes, measure ingredients, chop or grate food, and even cook on the stove with an adult’s supervision. Don’t leave the younger kids out! They can sort ingredients, mix ingredients, and even do simple measurements.

So, what are good choices for snacks? One idea that comes to mind is popcorn. Popcorn is low in calories and fat, and very high in carbohydrates and fiber, making it a great snack. It even counts as a bread exchange on the Food Pyramid.

Jazz up popcorn by making a trail mix. Let your kids mix popcorn, peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins and dried apricots in a bowl. This is a great recipe for the younger age group. No measuring is needed, just dumping!

After they’ve dumped all the ingredients into a big bowl, let them mix it together with their clean hands.

Peanut butter is another good snack choice. Let your kids cut celery into sticks. Then, with a spoon, have them fill the celery with peanut butter. Want to make it a little more interesting? Sprinkle raisins or sunflower seeds over the top.

For another great peanut butter snack, take plain old saltine crackers, spread on some peanut butter, then top with a slice of banana.

Pretzels sticks are another good choice. Take the peanut-butter-filled celery sticks mentioned above, and have the kids add pretzel “legs” to them. Pretzels are also great dipped in mustard, or just eaten right out of the bag. Serving a vegetable or yogurt dip? Serve it along with pretzel sticks instead of greasy potato chips for a healthier snack.

Fruit is always a great snack choice, but how can you keep fruit fun so the kids will want to eat it? Make Fruit Parfaits! Have your kids cut fruits like peaches, strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, apples, pears and bananas into bite-size chunks. In a tall dessert glass, have them layer the fruits, then top each with a sprinkling of blueberries or nuts. This will make a very pretty fruit snack they’ll be excited to eat.

Salsa is a great snack option. Many jarred salsas are very mild, and have a great flavor kids love. Serve salsa along with baked tortilla chips, or even with sliced vegetables. For a change of pace, have your kids put a block of fat-free cream cheese on a serving plate, then pour salsa over the top. Put tortilla chips around the outside of the plate and serve.

Kids learn their eating habits from their parents. It only makes sense that if you eat healthy, your kids are more likely to do the same. So, don’t offer your kids that bowl of carrot sticks while you’re standing there eating a chocolate-caramel candy bar! Set a good example for your kids and eat healthy snacks with them. This will not only benefit their health, but yours as well.

Before you know it, school will be in session again. Get your kids eating the right stuff now, and maybe when they’re standing in that cafeteria line, they’ll choose the “fresh fruit choice” over the “ice cream sandwich.” Well, maybe.

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