Healthy snacks and lunches to pack for children
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey of nearly 10,000 children, twice as many kids today eat snack foods, like crackers, popcorn, pretzels, and corn chips, as kids did just 20 years ago. Soda consumption has increased 27% for 6 to 9 year olds during the same time period. While children are eating extra calories, many still fall short on meeting their needs for vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, vitamin B6, zinc, and iron.
It is important to take extra care to make certain your child’s snacks are every bit as healthful as the meals you serve. In general, healthy snacks are foods that are natural and unprocessed. Examples are fresh fruits, fresh veggies, low-fat cheese, and low-fat yogurt. Shelled edamame is also a good snack because it is a good source of protein and fiber.
When appealing to kids, presentation is very important so making it look fun and yummy really helps. Cookie cutters allow you to make fruits and veggies into cool shapes. A perfect example is my son Ezra. He doesn’t like to eat baby carrots, but if I buy the bag of pre-washed and pre-cut “carrot chips,” he is all about them. Ezra didn’t like the taste of bell peppers when I sliced them into strips. Then, one day, I tried a different presentation by slicing them horizontally and they kind of looked like a flower petal and he told me he liked them. Putting snacks into cool containers also aids the presentation.
Parents.com or Parents magazine offers a lot of fun ways to present healthy snacks and meals for your children. I tried their suggestion for pretzel kabobs, and Ezra loved them. They suggested rolling ham, turkey and low-fat cheese together and then making it into a kabob by using the pretzel stick as the skewer (whole grain, low-salt pretzels that is!). There are some pictures below of ideas from parents.com.
Remember that snacks should be healthy and natural. If you pick up a snack item and look at the ingredients and don’t recognize the names or if corn syrup or fructose is part of the ingredients, then it isn’t a good choice for your growing child. Fruit juice doesn’t have a lot of nutrients either and is very high in calories and sugar and acid. It is important that your children like drinking water and plain old low-fat milk. Introducing healthy snacks and meals to them now will help to cultivate a taste for healthy foods that will last into adulthood.
Dr Reid is a Pugh Award distinguished board eligible pediatric dentist. She earned her pediatric specialty training through UCLA’s program at San Diego Rady Children’s Hospital. She has also served our servicemen as a Dental Officer at the Marine Corp Air Station, Miramar in San Diego. She’s also mommy to 5 year old Ezra. To follow her monthly blog posts, follow her at PediatricDentistSanDiego.com.