Young children often need to snack frequently as they go through the day. They have small tummies and high energy needs. Big kids need lots of healthy food to keep up with their incredibly rapid growth through the teen years. It may at times seem hard to get all the nutrients that are needed into you child. Many parents feel that it is a challenge to get their child to eat all of the recommended servings of fruits, veggies and whole grains. You can use your child’s need to snack to help you meet his nutritional goals. In other words, make snacks count!
Ways to do this are to provide snacks that are healthy and fun. Make sure that snacks you offer are not junk or processed food but, good, simple, real food. Some examples include:
- Celery sticks with a side of cream cheese and raisins – young kids can create “ants on a log” and eat them!
- Apples and peanut butter
- Tortilla chips and salsa
- Dried fruit
- Pretzels and small chunks of cheese – they can form building units by sticking the pretzels into the cheese before popping them in his mouth
- Popcorn (preferably what you pop yourself in canola or other healthy oil or low-fat microwave popcorn).
- Cut up fresh seasonal fruit
- Carrots, snap peas, cucumbers and a little low-fat ranch dressing for dipping
- Applesauce or yogurt
- Smoothies made of yogurt, banana and berries
Children love to help you in the kitchen – they also think it is fun to eat what they cook! So, you can use this willingness as a tool to help them get some healthy snacks in. For example, bake some pumpkin mini-muffins or zucchini bread together and enjoy some together with a glass of skim milk. Then if you have made double batch, you can freeze then and stick them in his lunches each day.
When you do let them watch TV use that as a good snacking opportunity. Hand your child a bowl filled with an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies. Try carrot pieces, strawberries, black olives, bell peppers and cucumbers. It is amazing how much they will devour without even noticing!
One last word, while young kids do often need a snack, some days they don’t. Children do not grow as much every day as the do on other days – therefore their appetite changes. Your job is to offer the healthy snacks and his job is to decide if he is hungry enough to eat it. If not – it is okay, he will want some another day.