Having kids means life moves fast, and feeding them healthy food can be a challenge. You’re pressed for time, kids have picky palates, and you want to watch expenses.
Yet studies show that we can improve health, promote weight loss (if that’s a goal), and reduce cravings for sugar and fatty foods by giving kids healthy snacks between meals. Yes, snacking is good for you, as long as you choose nutritious options.
Here are a few tips for success as you’re planning for healthy snacking:
1) Eat Real Food – Your child will feel more satisfied with snack combinations that have at least one unpackaged food. This would include things like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and homemade snack bars made with whole grains and unrefined sweeteners. The more processed and refined the food – i.e. containing high-fructose corn syrup, food dyes, hydrogenated fats and preservatives – actually send signals to the brain that the stomach is not full. When you eat things like fruits, vegetables, nuts/nut butters, and unrefined grains, the stomach sends the message of being satisfied. So, if you need to offer packaged foods for convenience, make sure to always add a fresh food to the mix. For example, add sliced apple with the string cheese, or a bunch of grapes with the cereal bar, or some baby carrots or edamame to the pretzels. Have your kids eat the fresh foods first, and then they’ll really enjoy the packaged food, and feel completely satisfied when they’re done.
2) Be Prepared – Always have healthy brand-name snacks in your car or purse. Here are some of my favorites that you can find in your mainstream grocery stores:
- PopChips – these all natural chips have 1/3 less fat than regular chips and are low in calories – never fried, never baked, just popped and packed with flavor – try their new Sweet Potato and Chile Lime flavors.
- Stretch Island Fruit leathers – all natural, 100% fruit
- Peter Rabbit Organic Fruit Puree Pouches – They contain 100% organic fruit with no added sugar or artificial ingredients – fun flavors like mango and banana.
- KIND Bars – all natural whole nut and fruit bars made from ingredients you can see and pronounce – fun flavors like apple pecan and cranberry almond.
- Justin’s Almond Butter pouches – single pouch servings of all natural nut butters to include almond, hazelnut and peanut – great source of protein and healthy fat.
- Eating Right Sandwich Thins – choose the multi-grain option that’s high in fiber and no high fructose corn syrup – my kids like these spread with hummus or Open Nature turkey slices.
-Annie Chun’s Potstickers – I prepare a bunch of these all natural finger-foods at the beginning of the week, and pack a few in a container before I pick up the boys from school ~ I add a handful of grapes or strawberries to the mix, and it’s a great portable snack before karate.
- Stonyfield Farms Yogurt Tubes – there’s way too much sugar in fruit-flavored yogurts ~ in fact some brands contain more sugar than a pack of M&M’s. Rather, pair these natural tube yogurts a handful of unsweetened trail mix for a healthy alternative.
3) Enlist Your Kids – This week, find time as a family to come up with two lists:
The first is a list of Healthy Snack Ideas – Divide the list into five categories: Packaged food, Fruit, Veggie, Nuts, and Homemade. Under each category have your kids list 10-15 preferences for each.
Packaged Food: pretzels, crackers, healthy chips, yogurt, cheese, bars and tortillas
Fruit: grapes, cherries, ‘cuties’, raisins, bananas, apples, fruit for smoothies, avocado
Veggies: baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, edamame, celery, broccoli, kale chips
Nuts: almonds, almond butter, peanut butter, mixed nuts
Homemade: cereal bars, dips, trail mix, muffins
The second is the grocery list – This list should contain EVERYTHING needed to get the agreed upon snacks. If you have the set list, this will make grocery shopping easy and efficient.
The entire process gives your children ownership of what they eat, and they’ll be proud of what they’ve created when they actually see help you make some of the homemade items. This involvement also tends to prevent kids from getting bored, and will minimize “trading for unhealthier options.
2) Planned Times – Regulating blood sugar and properly fueling our kids is important on every level. Eating every 3-4 hours not only helps our bodies efficiently use food for fuel, it also sets up healthy physiological patterns around fat-burning and retaining muscle mass. This is especially important for active kids who put their bodies under physical stress, and need food not only for energy, but also for recovery. It’s sometimes difficult to moderate snacking when you’re kids are in school. So at least make sure to have a snack ready at 3pm when they get home from school before they head out to their sporting practice or event. This will also discourage grazing until dinner.
For more information on providing healthy snacks and meals for your family, please contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.juliehammerstein.com.