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By Rebecca Roussell, RDN, LDN, CDCES — Certified Diabetes Care Education Specialist Dietitian, Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center
How many times have you served your children snacks, only for them to immediately complain about still being hungry? Kids love to eat snacks, often eating one or more each day. Many people associate snacks with prepackaged “junk food”, which lack nutritional value and are full of salt and sugar that make kids even hungrier. Worse yet, the junk food can contribute to health problems. But don’t worry! Healthy snacks can be tasty, exciting, and easy to serve while supporting an overall eating plan. They can also provide vitamins and minerals without overdoing calories. Here’s how.
- Use snack times as a way to increase fruit and vegetable intake. Most children do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Snack times offer a great opportunity to increase access and exposure to these nutrient-dense foods. Consider pairing them up with dairy products or dairy substitutes (such as grapes and cheese), with proteins (such as celery and peanut butter), or with whole-grain cereals and bread (such as a banana sandwich on whole-grain bread).
- Keep a range of healthy foods handy at home. It is much easier to make easy, healthy snacks when you keep a few key items stocked at home. Ideas include different types of the following categories:
- Raw vegetables = carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, avocado slices, bell pepper strips, celery sticks, salsa, raw or steamed cauliflower and broccoli, etc.
- Fresh fruit or Dried fruits = apples, bananas, cherries, orange sections, strawberry halves, grape halves, peaches, pears, berries, melon cubes, raisins, dried fruit mix, etc.
- Dairy products = low-fat milk, yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, and reduced-fat (2%) cheese (sliced, grated, diced or as a stick.)
- Lean proteins = tuna fish, boiled eggs, hummus, edamame beans, black beans, nut butters, grilled chicken breast strips, etc.
- Breads & Cereals = whole grain bread, whole grain soft tortilla, whole grain cracker, whole grain pita or bagel, whole grain dry cereal, rice or popcorn cake, air-popped popcorn, etc.
- Avoid processed “junk” foods and added sugars. Processed foods (made in a factory and sold in bags and boxes) do not have many nutrients and often have a lot of added sugar and salt. In addition, children may become hungry faster after eating processed foods.
- Teach children to eat a rainbow of colors. Arrange a child’s foods to show the beauty of fresh, brightly colored foods. This method often satisfies picky eaters too, especially when the food looks fun to eat.
Simple bowls of healthy food are always easy, but if you want to make Instagram-worthy snacks which are also delicious, try one of these options.
- Scrambled parfait olé – Toast a slice of whole-grain bread. Scramble an egg. Layer in a heatproof sundae glass with chunky salsa.
- Hummus fondue – Stir low-sodium vegetable broth into hummus until fondue-like. Serve cool with cubes of fresh whole-grain bread and cucumber on bamboo skewers.
- Chips ‘n’ “favorite fruit” salsa – Have the child choose a seasonal fruit. Finely chop it, and stir ½ cup fruit with ¼ cup salsa. Serve with whole-grain corn tortilla chips – or grilled chicken strips.
- Orange bowl – Scoop out segments from a large orange half. Cut a sliver off the rind on the bottom so it sits flat. Fill the orange bowl with whole-grain cereal and milk of choice. Place orange segments around it like they’re sun rays.
- Burger kebabs – Cook a veggie or turkey burger; cut into bite-size pieces; insert onto bamboo skewers with cherry tomatoes and whole-grain pita pieces. Drizzle with ketchup or mustard.
- Smoothie soup – Blend one cup frozen fruit of choice with ½ cup each vanilla yogurt and 100% fruit juice of choice. Serve as chilled soup in a bowl or cantaloupe “bowl.”
- Ant attack – Spread a mixture of ¼ cup low-fat cream cheese and 2 tablespoons salsa onto a whole-wheat tortilla. Top with shredded leafy greens and scallions (“grass”) and black beans (“ants”).
For more information or to schedule a nutrition consultation with a registered dietitian, contact Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center at 985.493.4765.