We all need to be more cognizant of our snacking habits and particularly those of our children. In June, 2007 the Mayo Clinic published these helpful tips on children’s snacking. Take a look…..
1. Give you kids a say. Offer comparable choices, such as regular or frozen yogurt, celery or carrots, whole-grain toast or whole-grain crackers, apples or oranges. Better yet, recruit your children’s help at the grocery store when you’re selecting snacks or in the kitchen when you’re assembling snacks.
2. Designate a snacking zone. Restrict snacking to the kitchen. You’ll save your children countless calories from mindless munching in front of the TV.
3. Make it quick. If your children need to snack on the go, think beyond a bag of potato chips. Offer string cheese, yogurt sticks, cereal bars or other drip-free items.
4. Don’t be fooled by labeling gimmicks. Foods marketed as low-fat or fat-free can still be high in calories. Likewise, foods touted as cholesterol-free can still be high in fat, saturated fat and sugar. Check nutrition labels to find out the whole story.
5. Go for the grain. Whole-grain snacks – such as whole-grain pretzels or tortillas and low-sugar, whole-grain cereals – can give your children energy with some staying power.
6. Out of sight, out of mind. If the cookie jar is full, your children will probably clamor for cookies. But if there aren’t any cookies in the house, fresh fruit or raw veggies may seem more appealing.
7. Play with your food. Ask your children to make towers out of whole-grain crackers, spell words with pretzel sticks, or make funny faces on a plate using different types of fruit. Use a tablespoon of peanut butter as glue.
8. Think outside the box. Offer something new, such as fresh pineapple, cranberries, red or yellow peppers, or roasted soy nuts. Slice a whole-grain pita and serve with hummus.
9. Mix and match. Serve baby carrots or other raw vegetables with fat-free ranch dressing. Dip graham cracker sticks or fresh fruit in fat-free yogurt. Top celery, apples or bananas with peanut butter.
10. Revisit breakfast. Many breakfast foods – such as low-sugar, whole grain cereals and whole-grain toast – make great afternoon snacks.
11. Use the freezer. Mix mashed bananas and peanut butter, spread between graham crackers and freeze. For a new twist on old snack time favorites, freeze grapes or peeled bananas, or fill an ice cube tray with juice or pudding.
12. Have fun. Use a cookie cutter to make shapes out of low-fat cheese slices, whole-grain bread or whole-grain tortillas. Eat diced fruit with chopsticks. Give snacks funny names. Try the classic “ants on a log” – celery topped with peanut butter and raisins – or make up your own.
13. Sweeten it up. Healthy snacks don’t have to be bland. To satisfy your child’s sweet tooth, offer fat-free pudding, frozen yogurt or frozen fruit bars.
14. Pull out the blender. Use skim milk, fat-free yogurt and fresh fruit to make your own smoothies.
15. Promote independence. Make it easy for older children to help themselves. Keep a selection of ready-to-eat veggies in the refrigerator. Leave fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter. Store low-sugar, whole-grain cereal in an easily accessible cabinet and stock canned fruit or packaged in its own juice in the pantry.
16. Remember your leftovers. A small serving of last night’s casserole might be a great snack.
17. Drinks, count, too. Offer your child plenty of water between meals. Liven it up with shaped ice cubes, a crazy straw, or a squirt of lemon, cranberry or other fruit.
18. Keep it safe. Make sure your children’s snacks are age appropriate. Never give foods that pose a choking hazard –such as nuts, raisins, whole grapes or popcorn – to children younger than age 4.
19. Practice what you preach. Let your child catch you munching raw vegetables or snacking on a bowl of grapes.
20. Be patient. Your children’s snacking habits may not change overnight. Look for positive changes over weeks or months.