Isn’t it great when your child sits still for the entire meal and eats every food group on his or her plate?
That isn’t the reality at your house? Not at mine either!
My children are like hummingbirds, swooping in to eat as little as possible to get back to whatever exciting activity that captures their attention.
We want our children to have the all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy, grow and succeed in school. Snacks can play an important role in filling in the nutritional gaps and make up a significant portion of your child’s daily intake.
Kid friendly snacks don’t have to be sugar-laden, artificially-colored junk foods. Make them count!
Reach for “real food” snacks for your kids
Your best bet for healthy snacks are to turn to “real food.” Filling up on empty calories can lead to food struggles at the table when they are too full to eat the healthy meals that you have so lovingly prepared.
One way to avoid food battles with your child, is to offer nutrient-dense snacks that add protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your child’s diet.
Below are some ideas that pack a nutritional punch!
7 simple tips for healthy snacks
1. Be prepared!:
When hunger strikes, it is easy to grab for packaged, highly processed, nutrient poor, chemically laden snacks. Solution: Keep a snack pack in your bag to make it easy to reach for fresh, nutrient rich, delicious choices.
If you don’t have time to prep in the morning, there are many prepackaged choices that have ingredients that you can understand and feel good about on the label. Applesauce without added sugar, yogurt squeezer, 100 calorie nut packs, cheese stick, mini hummus or guacamole packs, individual packs of pretzels or popcorn are all easy to grab on the run.
2. Offer healthy foods when kids are actually hungry:
Kids and adults are more likely to eat a carrot, or other healthy choice if they’re actually hungry. Some children are not hungry first thing in the morning, and then as soon as your get to school, they’re starving. Nutritious food (even if it’s their breakfast packed up) can be offered when they’re ready to eat.
Vegetables don’t just have to be served with meals. Try putting out cut veggies and dip or the vegetable part of dinner out first while the rest of the meal is cooking. That carrot often becomes less desirable once the mac and cheese is on the table!
3. Cut fruits and veggies into child-friendly pieces:
Sliced apples are far more likely to get eaten than a whole apple when packed in a lunch or snack. Try sprinkling with cinnamon or lemon juice to avoid the harmless brown discoloration that can occur with exposure to air.
Slice up some strawberries and pack in a small container for on the go. Pre-slicing makes it easy for little fingers to pop into their mouths on the run! Fruit kabobs are fun to make and are a colorful treat for parties or playgroup snacks.
4. Freeze leftover bits of fruit for smoothies!:
No need to waste food. Keep the bits of fruit leftover from snacks or meals and freeze them. Add to smoothies for a colorful, fiber rich snack.
Start with a cup of milk (dairy, almond or coconut), add frozen or fresh fruit, a splash of juice,and if you’re feeling really adventurous–and your child isn’t too picky–you can even toss in some spinach leaves.
Leftover smoothies can be frozen into frozen pops to enjoy on a hot afternoon. Much healthier than the store bought variety.
5. Think protein:
Protein-rich foods balance blood sugar and are important for growth. Adding a protein rich snack can help to avoid meltdowns due to low blood sugar and provide a steady energy source for whatever your child has on schedule.
Here are a few great choices:
- Hard boiled egg- egg slicer makes it even more fun!
- Nuts/ trail mix/ pumpkin or sunflower seeds if nut allergy- make your own.
- Yogurt or cottage cheese with berries
- Cheese stick
- Turkey slice rollup
- Celery or pretzel dipped in almond, peanut, soy or seed butter
- Veggies and hummus
- Apple and cheese
- Apples and nut butter
- Low sugar, higher protein bar, such as Lara or Kind bars can be useful to keep on hand when you need a snack now!
6.Take a dip!:
Let’s face it, dipping is fun. Adding a dip like guacamole, hummus, ketchup, yogurt, nut butter, refried beans or ranch, dressing etc can make fruit, vegetable or protein slices a lot more exciting. Guacamole is packed with good fats and can add healthy calories for busy little ones.
- Grape tomatoes, carrots, sugar snap peas, peppers are delicious dipped in guacamole, hummus or ranch.
- Sliced fruit is fun to dip into vanilla yogurt
- Whole grain pretzels dip well in hummus or nut butter
7. Portion packs:
Buying prepackaged snacks can get expensive. Save money by making your own individual snack packs. Buy a large bag and make individual portions that are easy to grab on the go. Large bags of organic tortilla chips, whole grain cereal or trail mix are good choices. Our family likes to air pop a big bowl of popcorn, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and then pack up portions in zip lock bags or reusable plastic or metal containers.
Know any other parents who would appreciate these healthy tips? Use the buttons at the top of this article to share with your friends and family on Facebook and other social media.
Dr. Amanda M. Levitt is a mother of three and a naturopathic physician with a specialty in natural family medicine. She treats her patients with a unique integrative approach, emphasizing education as well as natural therapies including diet, herbal medicine, nutritional supplementation, counseling, stress reduction, and lifestyle modifications.
Dr. Levitt is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate from the University of Arizona, and earned her doctorate in naturopathic medicine with honors from Bastyr University. She has been practicing as a board certified naturopathic physician for nearly 15 years. Dr. Levitt is an owner and practicing physician at Whole Health in Hamden, CT which has been voted the best natural health facility year after year in the greater New Haven area.
In addition to her thriving private practice, Dr. Levitt consults for Middlesex Hospital’s Integrative Medicine Residency program, helping to train medical doctors in the science and art of natural medicine.
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