Snacks for kids can be healthy if chosen carefully. Try some of these recipes so that your kids are satisfied and not mindlessly eating between meals.
If your children come home from school hungry — and what child doesn’t — is it okay to let them have snacks before dinner? With all you’ve been hearing about childhood obesity, it’s a legitimate concern. “But the answer is yes. Snacks for kids can be helpful, even important for children,” says Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, manager of Wellness and Program Strategies at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.
However, picking the right snacks for kids is important. Don’t confuse “treats” — foods that are high in fat and sugar, such as candy and cookies — with healthy snacks that add to kids’ nutrition. “That’s where some people are getting mixed up,” Thayer says. “There’s a place for those, too, in moderation, but most snacks for kids should include a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain — something high in fiber — and a protein.”
Providing healthy snacks is a better way of combating childhood obesity than prohibiting eating between meals, Thayer says. You want to keep an eye on your kids’ nutrition, but you don’t want them to be so hungry they’ll eat just anything.
Does the age of the child affect how much he or she should snack? Not really, Thayer says. What’s more important is the last time the child ate. “Some kids eat lunch at 10:30 or 11 in the morning. By the time they get home from school at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, they’re starved. If they have lunch a little later in the day, they might not be quite as hungry.” What time dinner is served also plays a role. If it’s earlier, they may not need as much to tide them over to their next meal. However, if it’s not until 7 p.m., they may want a bigger snack, Thayer says.
Healthy Snack Recipes
A snack should be food your school-age child can help prepare and enjoy, Thayer says, adding, “If they don’t like it, what’s the point?” Also, she says, if they help prepare the snack, it gets them comfortable in the kitchen and they will enjoy it even more.
For the best snack recipes, use some of their favorite foods. “Kids can be creative if you give them the tools to be creative with,” Thayer says. “Give them fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and say, ‘What can you make out of this?’”
Here are 10 great healthy snack recipes that help boost kids’ nutrition:
- Frozen bananas. Cut a banana in half and put each half on a Popsicle stick. Roll the halves in yogurt and then coat with a crispy rice cereal or granola and freeze. Your child can enjoy them frozen or slightly thawed.
- Quick pizza. Drizzle tomato sauce and sprinkle low-fat mozzarella cheese on a whole-grain English muffin half. Sprinkle with seasonings, such as oregano and garlic. Heat in the toaster oven until the cheese melts.
- Yogurt treats. Make yogurt parfaits by layering fruit, like strawberries and blueberries, and low-fat yogurt in a parfait glass. Top with granola.
- Snack mix. Make a mix of ready-to-eat cereal, dried fruit, and nuts or seeds. Place in a sandwich bag and you have an on-the-go snack.
- Snack kabob. Cut up cubes of low-fat cheese and place them with grapes on mini pretzel sticks.
- All-time favorite. Kids may enjoy “ants on a log,” which are celery sticks spread with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese and topped with raisins.
- Mexican treat. Take a corn tortilla and sprinkle with low-fat, grated Monterey Jack cheese. Fold it in half and then microwave for 20 seconds. Top with mild salsa.
- Potpourri. Arrange pita chips, baby carrots, and apple slices on a plate. Serve with hummus, low-fat ranch dressing, or low-fat yogurt as a dip.
- Smoothies. Blend low-fat milk or yogurt with a banana or strawberries and some ice for a low-fat milkshake.
- Popcorn. Air-pop some of your own kernels or choose a low-fat brand of popcorn to pop in the microwave. Serve with a glass of milk.
One final note: When kids have a snack after school, they should eat at the kitchen table and not in front of the TV or computer. “That way they pay attention to what they're eating,” says Thayer, “and mindful eating keeps kids from overeating.”
Karli Zeiler, CLCS
Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc.
Phone: 708.597.5900 x130