Healthy Snacks for Kids
Snacks are a big part of our kids’ diets. They can get one-fourth of their calories each day from snacks, so snacking smart can provide a number of benefits.
Because snacks are essentially a kid’s fourth meal, making healthy snacks accessible and delicious helps kids snack well, keeping their energy levels high and their Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) low.
Here are some snacks that are easy to grab after school or practice, and many don’t even require cooking.
Grab-and-go options have health benefits:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables have vitamins and antioxidants.
- Cheese has calcium.
- Hard-boiled eggs are handy for\ quick protein.
- Trail mix – granola, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit – has healthy carbs and fats.
Simple snacks satisfy:
- Whole grain cereal with low- or no-fat milk is great for a snack as well as breakfast.
- Low-fat yogurt can be topped with berries or granola.
- Smoothies are quick and healthy and a great way to use up fruit that’s ripe. Or use frozen berries and other fruit and know that you’ll always have what you need on hand. Make with low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, and wheat germ or flax seed.
- Edamame (soybean pods) are fun to eat.
- A banana with a few spoonfuls of low-fat strawberry yogurt and a handful of chopped nuts makes a healthy “banana split.”
- Fruit and cheese kabobs are easy to make. Serve them with yogurt dip
- Nuts butters contain protein, but make sure to get ones without added sugar.
- Almond butter – full of healthy fats – or cashew, sunflower seed, or soy nut butter for those with nut allergies.
- Peanut butter and banana sandwiches give your kids some protein, whole grain and fruit all in one!
Making food fun helps younger kids make healthy choices:
- Ants on a log – celery with peanut butter and raisins is a child favorite.
- Kids love to dip things, and a healthy dip is a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables. Try hummus, salsa or dips made with Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream. Or try spicy peanut sauce for dipping carrots and chunks of chicken.
- Roll turkey and cheese in a whole grain tortilla and slice to make “sushi.”
- Make flowers, faces or other shapes out of fruit and vegetable slices.
- Serve yogurt and fruit layered in parfait glasses or try crazy straws in smoothies.
- Use cookie cutters to cut cheese or sandwiches into fun shapes.
- Sneak fruits or vegetables into baked goods like zucchini bread, banana bread or muffins made with carrots or sweet potatoes.
Make smaller versions of the things your kids enjoy at dinner time:
- Mini burritos: Top a small whole-grain tortilla with fat-free refried beans and a little cheddar cheese (or reduced-fat cheddar). Microwave it until warm, then top with shredded lettuce and salsa or low-fat ranch dip.
- Snack-size quesadillas: Top a whole-grain tortilla with vegetables and cheese. Fold in half. Microwave until the cheese is melted. Cut and serve with salsa for dipping.
- Personal pizzas: Spread tomato sauce on half of a whole-grain pita. Top with your favorite vegetables and some part-skim mozzarella. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
- Soup snack: A cup of soup and a handful of whole-grain crackers are a warm snack on a cold afternoon.
When your kids are snacking, remember to keep the drinks healthy, too.
Skip the soda, go easy on the fruit juice and give them lots of water and low- or no-fat milk.
The importance of healthy eating at meals and snack time
It's recommended that most snacks served to children be fruits and vegetables, since most kids don’t get the recommended five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables each day – that’s roughly a minimum of 2½ cups of cooked or 4 cups of raw produce.
Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and important nutrients such as vitamins A and C, and they lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.
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