If you make it healthy, kids will eat it
American kids snack at least three times a day. That's a lot of snacking, and it amounts to about a third of the calories kids take in over the course of a day, according to National Institutes of Health statistics. So, healthy snacking is important.
A lot of parents say the problem is, their kids will only eat the less healthy snacks. Well, Hurley Registered Dietician Amanda Leddy says, that's not entirely true.
"We buy those convenience foods for them. They are not going to eat it or want them if it is not there and available. So one of the best things to do is not to have these high calorie, high sugar, high fat convenience foods available."
The trick, Amanda says, is to buy healthy and then make snacks user friendly, "Having pre-packaged bags available. Having pre washed and cut fruits and vegetables in snack size bags, having them ready for them to just grab and go. So, that becomes their snack container."
If you're busy, you might be worried about having time to do all of this prep work, Amanda says, "It's really just setting apart that time and making it a family priority to do it."
What you are should aim for with each snack is a mix.
Amanda says you should start with complex carbohydrates, like fruits and whole grains, "Making that homemade trail mix and putting in some lower sugar granola, and adding some dried fruit to it."
Next, she says, add some protein and healthy fat to your mix, "The carbs and protein will help keep them (kids) a little bit fuller longer; and add some fat. You can get that from adding nuts like almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, something like that."
String cheese and yogurt are also great protein and healthy fat sources. But, Amanda says, be very cautious about anything pre-packaged- especially things that seem healthy- like granola bars.
"A lot of them can be really high in sugar. Generally looking for granola bar that is 8 grams or less per serving."
Anything with "fruit" on the label is worth a double check, even so-called fruit smoothies. You may be better off making your own.
"Blending up some fruit, some milk, some yogurt, that would be fine," says Hurley's Joanna Sheill, RD.
She says you can actually freeze your smoothies in small containers, and you will end up with popsicles that also happene to be healthy, balanced snacks.
Both amanda and joanna say the best thing parents can do is set a healthy example. If you make healthy choices, and stock up on healthy foods, the odds are good that your kids will follow your lead.