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Food & Fitness

Stay on Track with Healthy Snacks

Girl eating an apple“I want a snack!” Most parents know that phrase all too well. We may occasionally roll our eyes upon hearing it, but it is OK for kids to eat a little something between meals. In fact, snacks can play a big part in fulfilling a child’s daily nutritional requirements.

The important thing is to provide children with nutritious snacks that don’t undermine our primary goal of keeping them healthy and fit. Avoid foods that are fried, processed, too oily or too salty. And, definitely keep sugar to a minimum. If your child eats healthy snacks from the start, they’ll likely continue to make good food choices throughout their lives.

As for serving sizes, young children don’t need large portions. Many experts agree that servings should equal about one tablespoon of food for each year of a child’s age. Enjoy serving them those small portions now, because your grocery bills will increase dramatically as they get older!

Healthy Snack Ideas:

  • Crunchy vegetable sticks (carrots, celery) with low-fat ranch dip (for older preschoolers)
  • Nearly frozen applesauce
  • Melon Melody: Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew with non-fat whipped cream
  • Ants on a Log: Peanut butter on celery with raisins
  • Mud & Dirt: Low-fat pudding with crushed graham crackers mixed in
  • Peanut butter on half of a whole-wheat bagel
  • Whole-wheat crackers or whole-wheat tortilla with salsa
  • Hummus and pita wedges
  • “Light” microwave popcorn with grated parmesan cheese (for children three years and older)
  • Mini-pizzas: Half an English muffin covered with a tablespoon of tomato sauce, then topped with part-skim mozzarella cheese

Note: Avoid feeding foods such as hot dogs, sausages, hard pieces of raw vegetables, popcorn, nuts, seeds, dried fruits (including raisins), whole grapes and round candies to children under the age of three, due to choking hazards. If you’re unsure about what’s right for your child, please contact your pediatrician.

Choosing and Buying Snacks

  • Buy only healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Before you go shopping, tell your children what behavior you expect and what, if any, snack they can expect.
  • Take snacks with you when you go to appointments or run errands.
  • Provide snacks that are easy to eat.
  • Use snacks to provide the food groups your children are missing during meals.
  • Make snacks small, then give seconds if the child asks for more.
  • Decide what snacks you will allow, and when. Explain the rules to your child and stick to them.

 

 

Note: A portion of this information is provided courtesy of Ready for Life, a special community education project of Dallas public television station, KERA.

  • Lisa

    How is pudding and graham crackers a healthy snack!?

    • Sabrina Edwars

      whats the harm of low fat pudding n a graham cracker get real!

      • KDCredible

        Graham crackers are known to rot teeth.  Unless you intend on brushing your child’s teeth soon after, I wouldn’t advise them.  In fact my child’s preschool does not allow dried fruit/raisins for the same reason (although graham cookies are worse).  And why pudding and graham cookies when there are so many other options?  Fill them up with good/whole foods– they eat so little as is.

        • guest

          Saying graham crackers are known to rot teeth is a bit of an over statement. It’s not specifically graham crackers it’s all foods containing carbohydrates and starches (chips, crackers, cereal) that can promote tooth decay.  They are low in fat and calories and if you purchase ones from a health food store you can avoid excess sugar and HFCS, and benefit from the whole wheat. Children are born with a taste for sweet things and graham crackers is certainly a better choice than loading them up on cookies. Besides, you should be teaching your children to brush their teeth after meals/ snacks anyways. 

    • lolgal

      i dont know girl friend i dont know

  • KDCredible

    Graham crackers are known to rot teeth.  Unless you intend on brushing your child’s teeth soon after, I wouldn’t advise them.  In fact my child’s preschool does not allow dried fruit/raisins for the same reason (although graham cookies are worse).  And why pudding and graham cookies when there are so many other options?  Fill them up with good/whole foods– they eat so little as is.

  • http://gulfcoastlocalfood.org/ Ang J

    What about regular old popcorn? Stove top or air popped is healthier than the microwave variety.

  • Chimama

    Hmmm.  A little suspicious of these suggestions.  Children (particularly very young children) need much more fat than adults so I would not suggest any kind of fat-free food (what’s in them anyway?)  Sugar, on the other hand is something that should be avoided and many low-fat foods have increased sugar content to make up for the flavor lost in the fat.

  • julio – productos omniliofe

    Gracias por las ideas para variar y nutrir la merienda de nuestros hijos.

  • Sandrah201

    Graham crakers are fine in moderation in my opinion. The melt easy in the mouth and they taste good period.

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  • Dmschell

    I would say that children should stay on track with HEALTHFUL snacks.

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  • trrwd10

    As a attorneys wrongful death and parent sometimes I find myself wanting to give my daughter just a quick snack, not always healthy, but I generally try not. I try to keep fruits and veggies chopped up and ready to go. Granola bars or rice cakes for on the road, just something simple. Though sometimes I’ve given sugary treats, I can’t deny that. I believe it’s alright in moderation though.

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  • Taylor

    How do you feel about red pepper hummus for little ones? My 2 year old refuses to eat vegetables but loves red pepper hummus. Crazy.

  • Kane

    To reduce sugar intake, is it ok to give children stevia since it’s a natural sweetener instead of normal sugar? I used to use crystal light lemonade but I think those drinks are made with aspartame which I know is bad for anyone, let alone children. I try to use healthy cooking as much as possible and always aim to reduce sugar intake. Studies are showing how much damage sugar can really do to the body.

  • Trev’s Mom

    Just say NO to microwave popcorn! Just saw an article on Yahoo that cited very toxic ingredients in the fake butter and the bag linings!

  • Car Accident Lawyer

    Glad to see that ants on a log still make the cut. I ate a lot of those as a child. My kids love a mix of cheerios, raisins and almonds. It’s easy to make, easy to pack and satisfies salty and sweet cravings simultaneously.

  • Sylvia

    I only eat organic when it comes to pre-packaged foods, they contain less sugar and less processed sugar and actually taste better and is healthier for your kids. Look into organic, best thing to give your kids so they don’t eat all those GMOs.

  • Sylvia

    if you turn your gram crackers into a smore it will rot your teeth.

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