Healthy holiday snacking for kids
With candy and cookies everywhere it can be tough to get kids to eat healthy during the holidays. Here are a few simple tips to incorporate the healthy snacks as well.
Classroom parties, visiting relatives and even at-home traditions, it is difficult for adults to resist tasty holiday temptations. It can be even more difficult for children! Here are some tips to keep your kids bellies full with more than just sweets.
- Keep healthy snacks handy: Raw vegetables, fruit, 100 percent juice, low-fat milk, string cheese, yogurt, pretzels, peanut butter and even hard cooked eggs. By keeping these types of items readily available, it is much easier to offer healthier snacks when in a hurry, versus grabbing for that plate of cookies on the counter.
- Time snacks carefully – two to three hours before a meal. That way your child will be hungry for lunch or dinner.
- Offer snacks to satisfy hunger. Skip the urge to offer a snack to quiet tears, calm your child or to reward behavior. That can lead to emotional overeating later on that day and in life.
- Keep snacks small. If your child is still hungry, they can ask for more. Let your child decide how much food is enough to satisfy their hunger.
- Snack wisely yourself. Do you snack when you are stressed, bored or just when you are hungry? What foods do you snack on? Remember, your child learns habits by watching you. Be a great role model.
- Go easy on snacks with added sugars. Sugary snacks add empty calories to a child’s diet and provide short bursts of energy. This time of year sugary treats are in high supply, limit the amounts throughout the day and only allow sweets in moderation once in a while. It is important for kids to still consume all the nutrition they can out of their snacks.
- Plan snacks that incorporate more than one food group. Try to combine foods from grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables.
- For picky eaters, give them a choice. This doesn’t mean asking, “What do you want for a snack?” A better question would be, “What would you like, string cheese or strawberries?”
- Skip soft drinks. Offer water, low-fat milk, 100 percent juice, or half juice combined with half water as snack drinks. Soft drinks and fruit drinks can overcrowd foods your child needs to grow and stay healthy.
Your child has a small stomach. He or she probably eats less at meals than you do. Smart snacks can help your child eat and drink enough during the day. Michigan State University Extension says that most young children do best when they eat four to six times a day, so think of snacks as mini-meals that help provide nutrients and food energy that your child needs to grow, play and learn.