Healthy Kids Series: Healthy Snacks

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Small group of children eating apples together

Snack time is one of a parent’s daily challenges, and you’re called upon several times a day to harness the hunger quick! How can we make sure we are ready and waiting with healthy snacks for kids when they let us know they’re hungry?

Snacking and Behavior

Most children will thrive with a snack or two to keep up their energy in those long breaks between meals. If your kids are hungry, they could have a harder time concentrating on schoolwork or using good behavior. And a small healthy snack can go a long way to helping a child feel like they can handle what their day brings along.

Child's hand takes piece of mixed fruit, top view

Setting Reasonable Snack Boundaries

If you can establish a snacking routine with your kids, you can avoid repeated debates throughout the day. You may not want to designate a strict time for meals and snacks, but it helps to have a routine you follow most days. Thinking ahead about when, where, and what to feed children can relieve stress for both them and you.   

When to Snack

If snacks are available all day, anytime, you may find all you are doing all day is preparing snacks. Letting kids know when snack time is and sticking to it will free them to think about other things throughout the day. If any moment is potentially snack time, they may ask for snacks all day long.

Don’t be afraid to adjust the routine. If your child never eats dinner, maybe that afternoon snack is too late, or lunch might be big enough that you can eliminate it all together most days.

Where to Snack

Choose one or two places in your home that are appropriate for eating, and ask your children to stay there until they have had enough. If they are allowed to wander carrying their food, you will have a hard time keeping track of how much they have eaten. You will also spend much more time cleaning up that applesauce from your living room carpet than you will off your kitchen table.

Children and adult together eat fruits and vegetables together

What to Eat: Healthy Snacks for Kids

First, Remove the Junk

Resist the temptation to grab the potato chips and cookies at the store. Consider junk food to be a treat that your kids get occasionally, but challenge yourself to stop falling back on the corn-syrup fruit snacks as part of every day.

Consider the Day as a Whole

You usually make sure meals for you kids are balanced, but we often think of snacks as “extra” food for the day. Start using snacks to help boost fruit and veggie intake, or save the dairy for snacks and skip it during meal time if it works better for your child.

Think about the Food Groups

The MyPlate recommendation encourages all of us to choose food from these main areas:

  • Protein Stays With Them
    • According to the Mayo Clinic website, Protein will help kids feel full longer.
    • Choosing snacks like nuts or nut butters, hummus, boiled eggs, and a piece or two of sliced baked chicken from the fridge can bridge the gap before the next meal.
  • Grains Give Them Energy
    • Most of the packaged snacks that you can easily take on the go are from this category. Throw some lightly salted popcorn in your bag and be the most popular parent at the park.
    • Pretzels, crackers, granola bars can all stand up well to being taken along.
    • Crackers and pretzels also pair well with a yummy protein if it’s time for some sustaining power. Try a cheese spread on crackers or dip pretzels in hummus to check off another food group.
  • Fruit for the Sweet Tooth
    • Chop up melon ahead of time and have it ready in your fridge, or offer some shiny red strawberries at snack time.
    • Choose an all-fruit popsicle
    • Throw some frozen fruit and milk in a blender for a smoothie they will love.
    • Stand up apple slices in a dab of strawberry cream cheese dip or stir some grapes with a little yogurt.

sticks of carrots and celery on wooden table.

Take on the Veggie Snack Time Challenge

Vegetables offer important nutrients that can help your child avoid illness and thrive at their full potential. MyPlate has veggies as the largest serving of our daily plate. And yet, most of us do not eat the recommended amount each day. Children can be picky as they develop their tastes, so it can be even harder for them to eat enough vegetables.

Challenge yourself to always offer a fruit or veggie as half of snack time, and your child will be much farther along to getting the recommended amount. Here are some veggie ideas you can add to your menu as part of your healthy snack time.

Grab-n-Go Veggies

Head to the market and take your time with the produce. Many of us have baby carrots in our regular rotation because they’re ready to go. Here are a few more veggies that you don’t need to chop before you feed them to your kids:

  • Snap peas
  • Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
  • Edamame
  • Frozen peas

Easy Prep Veggies

If you want to offer even more options, do some easy chopping ahead of time and always have prepared and washed veggies ready to go in your fridge.

  • Celery (ants-on-a-log is a hit)
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Cucumber slices
  • Lemon Cucumber wedges
  • Beet circles
  • Zucchini (add a pinch of salt)
  • Parsnip sticks
  • Broccoli Florets

Cooked Veggies in Snack Time? Easy.

Cooked veggies can be an easy snack time go-to.  A quick trip to the microwave to steam some corn might be just what the kids would like today, or you can think ahead and get the cooking done ahead of the hunger. Buy a little extra of your dinner veggie, and you can have some delicious leftovers at snack time tomorrow:

  • Roast some extra sweet potatoes or other root vegetable when you are making dinner, then offer them cold the next day.
  • Hand them a bowl of black beans and corn that were last night’s side dish
  • Saute green beans in a tiny bit of oil for dinner, and the leftovers will be delicious the next day.  

Healthy snacks on wooden table, top view

Be a Snack Time Role Model

After you streamline snack time with delicious and healthy options, dive in with your kids and show them you love healthy snacks, too! They will be more interested in the right food choices if they see you eating healthy, too.

 

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