Kids need healthy snacks to get them through the day between mealtimes, but getting your child to eat healthy can be a challenge whether at home, at school, or on the go.
We’ve put together some tips and some snack ideas to make coming up with healthy snacks for your child a little easier.
Try Not to Rely on Processed Foods
Processed foods (like chips, cookies, crackers, and other snack foods that come in bags and boxes) usually are high in added sugar and salt and don’t have much nutrients. They also aren’t very filling, so your child will be back for more snacks soon after. You can use processed foods when in a pinch, but you should try to avoid them when you can.
Cut Up Foods for Young Children
Some foods present more of a choking hazard than others and should be cut up, even for kids ages 4-7—not just babies and toddlers. Many foods should be chopped up to prevent choking, especially nuts, whole grapes, veggies, hot dogs and sausages, and marshmallows. Also, make sure your child is sitting for snack time to decrease the risk of choking.
Combine Foods Groups for Filling Snacks
The best snacks will be ones that combine food groups and help your child feel fuller longer. For example, if you give your child a fruit, pair it with cheese on the side or peanut butter as a dip.
Watch Out for Sugar
Kids’ diets are often full of sugar, which can lead to weight gain, tooth decay, and raise your child’s risk for serious health problems, like Type 2 Diabetes. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that kids have less than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugars. In a daily 2,000-calorie diet, that equals to no more than 50 grams of added sugar. When picking snacks at the store, check the nutrition label for “Added Sugars” under “Total Carbohydrate” and choose options that are low in added sugar. For snack time beverages, choose milk or water over juice or sports drinks that can be full of added sugar.
Nut-Free Ideas for Healthy Snacks at School or on the Go
When on the go or packing snacks for school, it can be tempting to just grab a bag of fruit snacks or crackers. But there are actually lots of healthier options that are quick and easy to pack. And if your child needs nut-free snacks for school, there are plenty of nutritious options that taste great.
Remember that if you are packing cut fruit, dairy, or other options that need to be kept cold, don’t forget to put your child’s snack in a small bag with a small ice pack.
Dairy and Proteins
- Cheese stick or cheese cubes
- Yogurt cup or yogurt drink
- Lunch meat rolled up
- Hard boiled egg
– Cucumber slices
- Pepper slices
- Carrot sticks
- Sliced, pitted olives
- Whole fruit that travels easily, like clementines or bananas
- Cut up fresh fruit (for apple slices, you can soak in a small dish of water and a dash of lemon juice to prevent browning)
- Dried fruit (such as raisins, cherries or mangoes)
- Dried fruit leather
- Nut-free cereal
- Granola bar or fruit bar
- Air popped popcorn
- Bagel (with cream cheese)
- Whole-grain crackers
- Homemade muffins
- Stuffed rolled-up tortilla or whole grain pita bread
Healthy Snack Ideas for Home
When you’re at home, you can use the same snacks ideas as above. But, snack time at home can also be a great opportunity to introduce new foods to your child or present foods in an enticing way. It’s also the best place to change up your child’s snack routine if you’re trying to make the switch from processed foods to healthier options.
Kids are more likely to try new things if they look enticing and let them enjoy the food in a fun way. You also can involve them in the shopping and food preparation to get them engaged and excited about their healthy snacks.
Dips are a great way to get kids to eat veggies or fruits they may not have tried before or they may not want to eat by itself. Dip snack ideas:
- nut butters
- melted dark chocolate
- ranch dressing
Smoothies: Frozen smoothies are a tasty way to introduce a fruit or other ingredient (like spinach!) in small amounts. Here’s some smoothie recipes to try:
- Blueberry Smoothie: Check out this recipe from the AAP.
- Tropical Smoothie: Check out this recipe from the AAP.
- Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie: Follow the same directions as the blueberry smoothie but use the following ingredients instead: 2 Frozen Bananas, 2 T peanut butter, Ice, and 1/2 C milk
Contact Pediatrics West
If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits or diet, contact your provider at Pediatrics West at (720) 284-3700.