Now that it's back-to-school time, life takes on a new meaning of "hectic". There's homework, activities, and after-school sports. And for many busy though well-meaning moms, their child's nutrition can take a back seat, getting lost in the shuffle.
Healthy snacking plays an important role in both managing your kids' hunger and boosting their nutrition. It also gives them that much-needed energy boost between meals and helps them stay focused. And with so many kids participating in after-school activities, a quick and easy snack is essential to power them through dinner-time.
But teaching your child their ABCs and 1,2,3s is not enough: you need to teach them healthy eating habits, too. It all starts with you.
"What we feed our kids really does matter", says New York City registered dietitian Isabel K. Smith. "If we can feed our kids well and teach them and involve them in the healthy eating process, it can also help to promote long-term health habits and a healthy lifestyle at a really young age."
Too busy to add one more thing to your list? Here are 10 easy ways to make sure your child has the foundation for healthy snacking. The best snacks are nutritious — low in sugar, fat, and salt.
1. Simple Yogurt Parfait
Make a colorful, fun and yummy treat by mixing low-fat yogurt with cut up berries; then top with granola. If fresh berries are not in season, frozen is a good substitute – and just as (or even more!) nutritious, since they tend to be processed at the peak of their ripeness, when they're most packed with nutrients.
2. Cut Up Veggies
Carrots, celery, cucumber and cherry tomatoes make a colorful and fun snack – especially when there's a dip involved.
3. Whole Grain Cereal
Whether they snack on some out of a bag or mix some in a bowl with milk, enriched whole grain cereal gives kids a snack packed with vitamins, calcium and fiber.
The protein in cheese will keep energy levels high. Stick salt-free pretzel sticks into cubes of low-fat cheese, or cut cheese into fun shapes with a cookie cutter, then make kabobs with fruits like berries, pineapple and watermelon.
They’re colorful, easy to make and fun to drink. For a base, mix nonfat vanilla yogurt with 100 percent orange juice and a banana; add cut-up fresh or frozen fruit, a scoop of peanut butter and some ice. Blend well and serve with a straw.
6. Peanut Butter
This childhood favorite, full of protein and fiber, is so versatile and can be used in so many ways. For fun and different sandwiches, substitute mini toasted waffles or rice cakes for bread. Or top slices of cut-up banana with dollops of peanut butter.
Keep a bunch of hard-boiled eggs handy in the fridge for a quick snack, or scramble an egg and roll it up in a flour tortilla topped with salsa. Sometimes called the “poster child” for protein, one egg contains about 6 grams of high-quality protein.
Pureed chickpeas give hummus a likeable nutty flavor as well as folate, vitamin B6 and iron. It’s versatile, too: serve it with cut-up veggies, or spread it on pita bread for a healthy sandwich treat.
9. Snack Mix
For a handy and portable snack, mix pretzels, nuts, whole grain cereal, coconut flakes and popcorn. You get fiber plus nutrients from minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc.
10. Celery and Reduced-fat Cream Cheese with Raisins
Otherwise known as “ants on a log,” these kid-favorite treats are crunchy and tasty. Make your own combos by using peanut or almond butter, dried cranberries or raisins, topped with pumpkin seeds. Or, spread hummus over your “log” and top with chopped olives.