Healthy Snacks and Beverages for Kids
Expert suggestions for snack ideas your family will love, plus recipes too!
By Bonnie Schiedel
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“Mom, I’m hungry!” Sound familiar? It’s important to grab the right delicious and nutritious snack for your child, since snacks make up a significant part of kids’ diet. A recent large study from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) found that about one-third of a child’s total daily calories come from pizza, desserts and snacks. So, better make those snacks as tasty and healthy as possible! Here are our top picks.
Trail mix. Help kids make their own custom trail mix, advises Mary Friesz, a registered dietitian in Boca Raton, Fla., and author of Food, Fun ‘n Fitness: Designing Healthy Lifestyles for Our Children. Set out raisins, sunflower seeds, nuts (unless you’ll be in a nut-free zone), roasted soy nuts and dried fruit and let the kids scoop ¼ to 1/3 of a cup of their own combo into small bags. Pop in the freezer or fridge to keep fresh, and grab when you’re on the go. Try Glorified Granola G.O.R.P too.
Fruit, veggies and dip. “Most kids love to dip their food, so take advantage of it!” says Mairlyn Smith, a Toronto, Ont., home economist and co-author of The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan (Whitecap). Mix a bit of cinnamon into French vanilla yogurt and dip fruit into it, or try Velvety vanilla yogurt dip with fruit. Another dip idea: mix low-fat plain yogurt with a bit of regular ranch dressing for lots of flavor without a lot of fat.
Smoothies. Whirl low-fat yogurt, fruit and ice in the blender to create one-of-a-kind – and yummy! – smoothies. Or stir a teaspoon or two of chocolate drink mix into a tall frosty glass of one per cent milk.
Roll-ups.“Turkey or chicken ‘cigars’ were a big hit with my son when he was growing up,” says Smith. Just roll up a thin slice of roasted luncheon meat, such as turkey or chicken, and enjoy. Add a smear of mustard if you want. Or, spread a small whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter or light cream cheese, roll and slice. Tortilla “sushi” wraps are fun too.
Store-bought picks. Even if you’re pushed for time, you can still make healthy choices. Smith suggests small yogurt cups or lower-fat round cheeses like Baby Bel. Friesz likes the occasional package of “cheese strings,” baked chips and salsa or bean dip, or a small cup of lentil soup. And nothing is easier or more portable than a few whole-grain crackers, pre-washed baby carrots or a piece of fruit!
- Kids begging for the prepackaged cheese, crackers and lunch meat? Make your own healthier version. Pick up a few reusable containers with dividers, and add fruit, veggies, cheese, whole grain crackers and other good stuff. Add a frozen container of milk, water or 100 per cent fruit juice to keep things cool until snack time.
- “Make healthy snacks visible,” advises Friesz. Cut up fruit and veggies ahead of time and put them front and center in the fridge. And make a habit of saying “look in the fridge” first (rather than the cupboard where the sweet stuff likely lives).
- “Jazzy names work well,” notes Smith, who found that lunch meat “cigars” were popular in her household. “Ants on a log” – celery spread with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese and topped with raisins – are good too, says Friesz.
Get more great nutrition tips for kids.