Snack Time!

Children love to snack!  And adults do too, for that matter!  That said, the food industry has also realized this and spent a great deal of time capitalizing on a variety of snacks for every picky palate - healthy and unhealthy.  I am sure you have noticed that during your trips to the supermarket, there is a new type of snack food packing every aisle of the store.  Whether it’s the allure of a colorful box with a intriguing health claim or a yummy looking cookie, these snacks are tempting us, and our children, at every turn.

Unfortunately, snacks may come in all shapes and sizes, but most choices that clog the supermarket shelves are lacking lots of delicious nutrients that your child needs to thrive.  However, there are many snacks that are healthier versions of the "not so healthy" and I think you can entice your picky little eater to enjoy some of these nutritious options. 

Here is my list of some wonderful, healthy snacks that YOU and your child will enjoy!

  • Hummus and Raw Veggies - Hummus is a great source of protein and fiber.  Dipping fresh, raw veggies in it makes for a yummy snack with the added bonus of the amazing vitamins and minerals you get from the veggies.  Try making your own hummus.  Its easy, quick, and delicious! http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Hummus-101577
  • Almond Butter/Sunflower Butter and Rice Cakes - Almond butter and Sunflower butter are healthier substitutions for peanut butter (and peanut allergies) and your child won't even know the difference.  Packed with healthy monosaturated fats, antioxidants, Vitamin E, Calcium, and Magnesium, this is a nutrient-dense, yet tasty snack.  Even better, the rice cakes are low in calories and gluten-free.
  • Whole Grain Cereal - This is a perfect snack to take on the go that kids really love.  But all cereals are not made equal.  Purchase with caution!  Many kid-friendly cereals are high in sugar and lack any nutritional benefits so ALWAYS make sure to read the label, look for cereals with under 7 g sugar per serving, and list whole grain as the first ingredient.  Barbara's Bakery has a great variety of cereals that are low in sugar, minimally processed and most are gluten-freehttp://www.barbarasbakery.com/.  Kashi cereals are also another great brand that taste great and are healthy toohttp://www.kashi.com/.
  • Yogurt and Fresh Fruit -  Yogurt is another food item that tends to be VERY high in sugar so again, purchase with caution!  Greek yogurt is the best because it is low in sugar and high in protein & calcium.  Dress it up by adding fresh berries (frozen works perfectly too!), some crunchy granola (Bear Naked is perfect! http://www.bearnaked.com/), or drizzle some organic agave syrup on it for a sweet treat!
  • Popcorn - Popcorn offers a variety of nutrients - whole grains, fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants.  Buy the plain popcorn (no salt or butter added) and have your child add their own topping.  For a savory snack - add a little Parmesan cheese or for a sweet snack - add some cinnamon!
  • Baked Sweet Potato Chips - For the kid that loves to munch on crunchy foods like chips and crackers, why not give them a healthier version?  Baked Sweet Potato Chips are delicious and provide your child with an abundance of Vitamin A, fiber, Vitamin C, and Folate. Here's a simple recipe - http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/baked-sweet-potato-chips
  • Dried Fruit - Kids love dried fruit - especially raisins - because of their sweetness and texture.  While dried fruit is a healthy snack in moderation, make sure to always brush their teeth afterwards due to the sticky, sugary nature of the fruit!
  • Smoothies - Smoothies are a great way to sneak in some nutritious foods that your child normally doesn't eat or it can be a simple way to increase their fruit intake.  Mix milk (whatever type you use) or nonfat yogurt, fruit (frozen is healthy and cost-effective) and 100% orange juice for a yummy, sweet snack. If you are brave, you could also add some veggies!

A few pointers - 

  • Snacks should range between 100-150 calories.
  • Make sure to ALWAYS read the label for the correct serving size
  • Space snacks evenly between meals so blood sugar does not drop too drastically
  • Be wary of the health claims you see on processed foods.  There are plenty out there that say they are ORGANIC, WHOLE GRAIN, HIGH FIBER, etc. etc.  Just because there is a health claim doesn't mean it is a healthy choice.  Cheese crackers that are organic are not better for your child than cheese crackers that don't say organic.  Just serve these types of snacks in moderation. 

Most importantly, have fun with this!  Involve your child in the process and come up with new ideas!  I think the healthiest thing you can do is try to stay away from the processed, unhealthy snacks.  The purer the better!

Comment

Jill Latham, MS Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics

Throughout Jill’s life, nutrition, health, and exercise have always been the cornerstones of who she is. After a stint in the entertainment business following college graduation, Jill decided to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree in Nutrition and become a Registered Dietitian. Jill has a Master's of Science in Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics and is a soon to be Registered Dietitian. Jill truly enjoys encouraging and teaching people how to eat nutritiously and live healthy! During her four years in school, Jill realized how much she liked educating children on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, which lead her to develop a strong interest in fighting childhood obesity. Honored to be part of ChildCareInfo.com as the Nutrition contributor, she looks forward to sharing her knowledge on how to make healthy living a part of everyone’s lives, especially our children. Jill currently resides in Santa Barbara, California with her boyfriend and dog, Madison. She also loves to juice fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and exercise regularly! Please visit Jill’s nutrition, health, exercise, & wellness blog Nutrition Concierge. Jill is Founder and CEO of Vibrant Earth Juices