Snacks: Healthy Snacking for Kids on the Go (cont.)
To control portions and help kids learn the value of doing so, Levine suggests keeping some ziplock bags on hand, and letting kids prepare their own portion-controlled servings.
"You can use their age as a guideline - for example, a 7-year-old child can be allowed seven M&M candies, or seven potato chips, seven animal crackers," says Levine. "It teaches them counting skills as well as portion control."
4. Make It Easy to Eat Well
Having trouble getting your kids to eat healthy snacks -- like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain items? Make these foods easy to munch, and they will eat more of them, Livingston says.
"No matter what food it is you're trying to get your child to eat, if you make it accessible, if it's easy to eat, if it's there waiting for them in the fridge or on the counter, you will increase the likelihood that they will eat it," says Livingston.
But cutting up fruits and veggies into bite-sized pieces isn't quite enough. Snacks should also be packaged in a way that makes it easy for kids to "grab and go," Livingston says.
"The key is not only making snacks easy to eat, but also easy to share," Levine adds. "Kids love to share their snacks at school and if you help them do that, they are more likely to eat what you prepare, rather then trade up for something from a vending machine."
Snacks that are easy to portion out into plastic bags and take along include fruit and veggie chunks; a mixture of dry cereal and nuts, raisins, and a few chocolate chips; "sandwiches" of whole-wheat crackers with peanut or almond butter; fruit roll-ups cut into bite-sized portions; half an energy bar cut into bite-sized pieces; popcorn or cookies measured out into 100-calorie portions.
5. Make It Yourself
Some pre-packaged snacks are quite healthy. But when you make a healthy snack from scratch, it's easy to "hide" the healthy ingredients, and give your kids the taste they want along with the nutrition you want them to have, Livingston says.
"For example, you can substitute 1/4 of the flour in any cookie or cake recipe with that same amount in ground flaxseed," Livingston says. "Your kids won't taste the difference, and you'll be giving them added fiber and important omega-3s."
Another of Livingston's tricks: Substitute fruit puree for one-half to three-quarters of the fat in any cake, cookie, or muffin recipe. You can also cut sugar by 1/3 to 1/2 without stirring up much of a fuss.
To make frozen fruit bars with more nutrients and less sugar, she says, puree berries, melon, or even bananas, and blend with a few tablespoons of fruit juice. Freeze the mixture in a paper cup or a plastic pop mold.
"By using the whole fruit puree instead of fruit juice, you get all the nutrients in a piece of fruit, and not all the sugar found in a juice," says Livingston.
6. Think Outside the Cookie Jar!
If you hear the word "snack" and automatically think cookies, chips, or pie, says nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, think again.
"A snack food doesn't have to be a sweet," says Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center. "It doesn't even have to be a traditional snack food. Almost anything a kid likes to eat can be turned into a snack if you watch portion sizes."
Her suggestions include cold pizza (made with veggies and low-fat cheese); whole-wheat tortillas with spinach or other vegetable; hummus on pita bread; salsa & baked chips; dill/garlic low-fat yogurt dip and vegetables; mini oatmeal muffins with raisins; a whole-grain waffle with jam or fresh fruit.
"It's important to get kids away from the taste of sugar, and incorporating other types of snacks into their diet is one way to do that," says Heller.
Levine reminds us not to forget low-fat and no-fat dairy foods as a great snack alternative.
She suggests "low-fat yogurt with your own fruit puree to reduce sugar, string cheese, low-fat milk with cocoa, even low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream is OK if you watch the portion size."
Whether you're preparing snacks for your kids to take to school, or treats to keep them satisfied in the afternoon or evening, Bauer offers these fun, kid-loving healthy snack recipes. WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members -- journal one serving of snacks as 'light dessert.'
Twist and Shout Trail Mix
This is a great project for younger kids (aged 2-6). Not only do they feel proud about preparing their own snack, they also get the chance to practice their math skills
1/2 to 1 cup Multi-Grain Cheerios
1 serving = 10 Cheerios, 9 mini pretzels, 8 raisins, 7 Goldfish, 6 chocolate chips
Per serving: 105 calories, 3 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 4.6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
Chocolate Pudding Sprinkle Cones
Instead of ice cream, these colorful cones hold creamy pudding that's topped with rainbow sprinkles for a festive touch. They also make a good party treat. They're best made ahead of time and refrigerated for about four hours before serving.
6 ice cream wafer cones, flat bottom, multi-color pack (green, pink, and beige)