Kid's Health and
9 Healthy Fun Kid Snacks
By Joe Wilkes
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to
When I was growing up, a common refrain was "no
snacking between meals" or "you'll spoil your dinner." Today, nutritionists are
saying just the opposite is true. For kids and adults, it's recommended that we
all eat five or six smaller meals spaced out over the day instead of the three
traditional pig-outs. This is especially true for children, who, if they
haven't already succumbed to obesity, have much smaller stomachs than adults.
What this means is that kids don't, and shouldn't, eat as much as grownups at
breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And their fast-burning little metabolisms will
make quick use of what does fit in their stomachs at lunch, which means they're
going to have to refuel before suppertime rolls around. So snacking is a good
thing, but, of course, not all snacks are good.
The two most important things to consider regarding snacks for
kids (and for us adults, for that matter) are variety and portion size. A good
rule of thumb is to try and incorporate two different food groups into any
snack and to keep the portion size between 100 and 200 calories. The required
amount of calories will vary depending on your child's age and activity level,
but a snack should ideally be a small energy booster to help them make it until
their next meal, not a meal in itself. Hopefully, it'll be a quick bite on the
way outside to play and/or exercise, and not a side dish for a TV or video-game
marathon. Other things that make good snacks are foods high in nutrients,
fiber, and protein and foods low in sugar, sodium, and saturated and trans
fats. And bad news for the culinarily impairedif it's prepackaged, processed
food, it's unlikely it will be a healthy choice for your young 'un. But the
good news is that children have simple tastes, which usually translates into
food that's simple to prepare. Here are some ideas for when your munchkins get
the munchies, plus, for the first time ever, my mom's nutritious pancake
- Vegetables. I know what you're
thinking"Great! I get to force-feed my kids two more times a day!" It's
truevegetables are usually the diciest component of kid cuisine. But it's
worth the effort, because veggies give you more nutritional bang for your buck
than any other food group. And if you get creative, you can usually find a way
to get your kids to eat them without too much emotional scarring. Many dinner
table disputes are about kids trying to assert their independence. You can get
around this by letting your kids assist in the selection and preparation of the
vegetables. If you take them to the farmers market and let them pick out the
vegetables, learn about how they're grown, etc., you're more likely to get more
buy-in back home when it's time to eat the vegetables. You can also give them
choices like celery sticks or baby carrots. But don't use dessert as a
negotiating tool, as in the old standby, "no dessert until you eat all your
vegetables." You just end up vilifying the vegetables and glamorizing empty
caloriesand those are values they'll take into adulthood. Talk up the
veggies and let them know all the health benefits they'll get from eating them.
If you have a little extra time, try carving or arranging the vegetables on a
plate to make faces or something more decorative and fun. You can also try
serving veggies with a low-fat yogurt or cottage-cheese dip.
here for some dip ideas.
Fruits are a marginally easier sell than vegetables.
They're sweeter and appeal more to kids' palates. Although, one thing to watch
out for is fruit juice. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking a serving
of fruit and a serving of juice are interchangeable. In fact, the American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice for kids to a couple of drinks
a day, as juice is a contributing factor to dental cavities and
gastrointestinal problems. Whole fruit, on the other hand, provides tons of
fiber and other nutrients, and kids can partake of it quite freely, without any
adverse effects. As with vegetables, if you have the patience and the knife
skills, fruit can be carved into fun shapes or you can make fruit kabobs. You
can also come up with low-fat healthy dips like yogurt that kids can dunk their
fruit into. On hot summer days, try freezing some grapes or a banana as an
alternative to a mid-afternoon Fudgesicle. With both fruits and vegetables, you
might consider setting up a big "snack bowl" in the kitchen. Let the kids help
choose which fruits and veggies go in the snack bowl, and then give them
permission to grab what they want from the bowl whenever they're hungry. This
will help them feel like they're in control of what they're eating, but without
giving them carte blanche to hit the sugar or the chips.
Kids love cereal and the good news is that a lot of
popular commercial cereals have made the switch to whole-grain flour. However,
as nutritionist Marion Nestle said in a recent interview, whole-wheat Cocoa
Puffs are still Cocoa Puffs. If the whole grains are largely serving as a
matrix to deliver a ton of sugar to your child, they're not worth eating. On
the other hand, there are a lot of cereals, like Cheerios and the Kashi line,
which have a lot of whole grains and not so much sugar. So check the label and
try to choose cereals that have a high fiber-to-sugar ratio. Cereals create
another opportunity to reinforce a good lifelong eating habit. Try to
discourage your kids from eating directly from the box. In fact, here's a way
you can replicate the convenience of prepackaged foods right in your own home!
Just get some resealable sandwich bags or a bunch of small sealable containers.
When you buy a big box of cereal, pour snack-sized portions into the bags or
containers. You can even stuff the bags back in the box for storage. This is
great for last-minute lunch packing, or your kids can grab a cereal snack for
themselves. This will help fight against the temptation for unlimited munching
from the open cereal box. Plus, who knows where those little hands have been?
When they're elbow-deep in the communal cereal, it's pretty gross when you
think about it.
- Peanut butter. One of
the best protein sources is a kid favoritepeanut butter. With eight grams
of protein in a two-tablespoon serving, peanut butter's a winner. Again,
though, portion size is key as peanut butter is fairly high in calories (188)
and fat (16 g)two tablespoons will usually suffice for a snack. Try
making that old party favoriteants on a log. Fill a stick of celery (the
log) with peanut butter, then embed raisins (the ants) in the peanut butter.
When choosing your peanut butter, try to find brands that only contain one
ingredientpeanuts. Some stores even let you grind your own now. Many
brands contain so much sugar you might as well be giving your kid frosting.
- Protein. Lunch meat is a great snack, but
don't be lured into the sinister den of the Lunchables. You can
read more about what makes them bad
here. Sliced turkey or chicken are great lunch meats to have on hand. Stay
away from processed meats like bologna or salami though. You never know what
you're getting, and often you're getting a lot of fat and sodium. If you can't
sell a sandwich on whole-grain bread, try making a turkey roll-upstack a slice
or two of turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, a low-cal condiment like mustard,
and roll everything in a whole-grain lavash, stuff it into a pita, or skip the
bread and roll it up on its own. Tuna and salmon are also really healthy, and
can be doctored in a salad with some yogurt instead of mayo. Check with your
doctor about how much tuna and other types of seafood your child should
consume. There is a greater risk of mercury poisoning for younger children, so
some limits may need to be observed.
mix. This is another great way you can involve your
children in their own diet. Gather a selection of healthy snacks like unsalted
peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, unsalted popcorn, raisins,
dried berries, dried apricots, oats, healthy cereal, and anything else crunchy
or chewy and healthy that you can think of that your kids will like. Despite
their availability in commercial trail mixes, chocolate chips and marshmallows
should probably be off the list. Put out the ingredients and let your kids
choose which of their favorites they're mixing up. For younger kids, you can
even present it as if they're making a magic potion or something. By letting
them be involved in the creative stage, you'll hopefully get better results in
the eating stage. After all, they made itwho are they going to complain
to? Some store-bought trail mixes and granola bars are also pretty decent. Just
check the labels carefully. Some less-scrupulous companies pack their "health"
foods with sugar and saturated fats like coconut and palm oils.
While most delivery and frozen pizza is packed with fat
and calories, pizza can actually be pretty healthy. It's basically a bit of
bread, some tomato sauce, some cheese, and healthy toppings. And yet again, it
can be a meal and an activity for your child. If you don't have the time to
make the full-on dough from scratch, you can make pizza with a lavash or a
low-fat tortilla, or you can make mini pizzas with whole-wheat English muffins.
Add a dollop of sauce and let your child choose toppings from a variety of
healthy ingredients: mushrooms, peppers, onions, eggplant, veggie or turkey
pepperonithe sky or the structural integrity of your crust's the limit.
Sprinkle some low-fat mozzarella on top and stick it in the oven or toaster
oven until melted.
here for some more pizza tips.
- Smoothies. A lot of kids will refuse to eat
any fruits or vegetables unless a massive amount of processing has been
undertaken. Here's where the blender or food processor can be your best friend.
By keeping a few bags of frozen fruit on hand, you and your little kitchen
helper can make your own smoothies. Just pick a combination of your favorite
fruits, add a little plain, nonfat yogurt, some ice, some banana slices, or
some peanut butter, and blend until smooth. It's a sweet, cold summer treat,
and gives your kids all the fiber and nutrients from fruit that a lot of fruit
- Healthy-packed cooler. It's summertime,
which means it could be time for a family road trip. Hopefully, you'll have
room in the car for a cooler packed with healthy snacks like the ones mentioned
above, but occasionally, the siren song of the roadside mini-mart or vending
machine is too much to resist.
can click here to read more of the best and worst gas station cuisine.
Also, the Center for Science in the Public Interest recently released a list of
commercially available snack foods that are relatively decent. The list
includes: applesauce cups; Chex mix, traditional flavor; fruit cups;
low-fat/sugar granola bars; and raisins. But save some money and save some
calories. Pack a cooler.
BONUS: My Mom's
many of my family's "secret" recipes, this began life on the side of a package
of food. In this case, a carton of eggs (no surprise when you see the second
ingredient). But this is a pretty good way of sneaking extra protein into your
kids' dietit'll definitely get a better reaction than a boiled egg and a scoop
of cottage cheese on a Saturday morning. For the grownups who are watching
their cholesterol, my brother came up with a variation, substituting six egg
whites and half an avocado for the six eggs. The pancakes turn out a bit green,
but if you can get past that, they're quite tasty. You can top them with your
favorite fresh fruit. If you can't live without maple syrup, go for grade B or
grade C. They contain more of the natural minerals that the grade A syrup
filters out. And they're cheaper!
My Mom's Pancake Recipe
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese Blend or food process first six ingredients on
high until smooth. Add milk slowly to reach batter consistency. Cook on a hot,
nonstick griddle. Number of pancakes vary by size. Serves 6.
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (or 1/4 cup whole-wheat and 1/4 cup barley
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla
1/4 cup milk
10 minutes Nutritional Information: (per serving)
||Protein: 13 g
||Fiber: 1.5 g
|Carbs: 9 g
||Fat Total: 15 g
||Saturated Fat: 3 g