From toddlers to teenagers, children love to snack. In fact, snacks can make up as much as one-fourth of kids’ daily caloric intake, so snacks are not an insignificant part of your child’s diet. Children who are particularly active may need more than three meals a day to stay energized.
When kids are toddlers and preschoolers, it’s easier to regulate what they consume. But as kids grow older and can find their way to the fridge and pantry after school, you’ll want to encourage healthy eating. You can do that by ridding your cupboards of sugary or salty foods with little or no nutritive value. Instead, stock up on whole-grain, high-fiber, low-fat alternatives, and keep your fridge filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Fruits and veggies. The less work your kids have to put in washing, peeling or cutting, the more likely they’ll be to reach for fruits and vegetables. Peel, cut and store oranges, pineapple, melon and berries. Carrots, cucumbers, celery, peppers and broccoli keep nicely, too, if you want to prepare them ahead of time.
- Dairy. Low-fat cheeses and yogurt make great high-protein snacks. Think cheese sticks and yogurt cups (check the sugar content, though).
- Protein. In addition to dairy, hardboiled eggs, natural peanut butter and nuts make excellent, power-providing snacks.
- Fruit of another form. Dried fruits such as apples, raisins and cranberries are OK when fresh fruit isn’t an option. Applesauce without added sugar is another alternative.
- Crunchy munchies. Rather than full-fat chips and cookies, bring home low-fat baked chips or whole-grain, high-fiber crackers. Air-popped popcorn (without butter or salt) and low-salt or unsalted pretzels are also good choices.
Removing the junk from your house may provoke a temporary uprising, but your children may eventually come to appreciate the healthful food you provide. Don’t let your quest for good health prevent you from allowing the occasional treat, though – studies show it’s better to offer ice cream, candy and the like in moderation rather than to restrict treats altogether.