Here are some tips on eating smarter snacks. Research shows that if you teach kids to eat right, they’ll really do it — on their own. In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers tracked 595 children, half of whom had received, along with their parents, education on making healthy food choices. Three years later, kids who attended the nutrition classes were still eating healthier than those who didn’t receive such education.
The key to creating healthy snacks your kids will crave is making them as fun and engaging as the glitzy commercial stuff. What’s more, these foods are perfect for parents, too. Here’s what Jegtvig and other snack-savvy experts recommend.
Fruit kabobs. Buy some shish kabob skewers and create colorful strawberry, pineapple and mandarin orange kabobs kids can grab and go. Kids enjoy making them, too.
Frozen grapes. They have the consistency of mini-popsicles, yet no added sugar and plenty of flavonoids. Just pop a bowlful of grapes in the freezer for a sweet treat anytime.
Ants on a log. Part craft project, part after-school treat. Get your kids involved in making their own snacks. Take celery sticks, smear them with light cream cheese or natural peanut butter and sprinkle with a line of raisins.
Seasoned nuts. Nuts, especially walnuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are a perfect snack. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar and bake 10 to 15 minutes.
Veggie chips and dip. There is no excuse for not having fresh vegetables on hand. Buy prechopped, prewashed bagged veggies. “Then give your kids a little bit of whatever dip they want,” says Jegtvig. “Kids need a little fat, and fat helps you absorb many of the nutrients in vegetables, so a little ranch dip or chip dip is fine.”
Smoothies. Mix half a banana, a fistful of grapes, some berries and some yogurt in a blender and make a smoothie. In the summertime, freeze the mixture to make a cool dish that’s as sweet as ice cream but much more nutritious.
Rainbow melons. Slice honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon to make a candy-colored natural treat.
Carrots and hummus. You can buy hummus in most grocery stores today, and baby carrots are sold practically everywhere. This spicy snack is rich in protein, so it’s filling and helps stave off hunger.
Star fruit sandwiches. Place banana slices between sliced star fruit for funky, filling sandwiches.
PB&J. Don’t shy from the classics. “Traditional kid favorites like peanut butter and jelly are still better choices than processed snacks,” says Jegtvig. Just choose whole grain bread and go light on the sugary jelly.
Nuked sweet potatoes. Thinly slice a sweet potato, spread it out on a plate, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and microwave for three to five minutes. These “potato chips” are more filling than the fried, bagged kind, and they’re chock-full of beta-carotene.
Berry blends. “Anything with berries is great,” says Jegtvig. Mix a bowlful of berries in season, including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Assorted seeds. Seeds are a rich source of vitamin E and some, like pumpkin seeds, have omega-3 acids. Roast seeds for extra crunch.
Make a mix. In a Tupperware container, mix whole grain cereal, such as multigrain Cheerios, dried fruit, seeds and nuts, for a trail mix that satisfies indoors, too.
Roll ups. For a heartier snack, layer thinly sliced turkey breast, spinach leaves and a light spread on a whole-wheat tortilla. Roll up and slice into tasty disks. Roll ups also work with tuna salad, refried beans and spreads such as hummus.