Time for summer snacking

Children need energizing snacks when they are on the go during summer.

Power snacks, healthy snacks and easy snacks for kids – they should all be everyday foods that are easy to keep on hand, help kids learn to like healthy foods and provide nutrients they need for growth, energy and brain development. Generally, the less processed they are, the less expensive and healthier they are.

There are many simple, no hassle foods that meet these criteria. Keep fruits and veggies ready to eat in the fridge and on the counter for snack times. Many kids like raw veggies with dip or peanut butter, or just as they are. If your kids seem uninterested, continue putting food such as apples and bananas out from time to time to help them become accustomed to seeing the healthy options, increasing their chance of trying them. Veggies can also be tossed into a blender for a smoothie or shake with fruit and yogurt, or milk. Try a green smoothie made with fruit, yogurt or milk and spinach. Kids love them!

Yogurt, milk or non-dairy milk are good protein choices and help build muscle and bone strength. Peanut butter on whole grain bread, hard-boiled eggs, and trail mix of nuts, dried fruit and low sugar cereal are all easy and energy-building snacks to keep on hand. When you combine these foods with fresh, frozen or canned fruit or vegetables, you and your child have a winning snack that encourages them to explore fruits and vegetables.

Alliance for a healthier Generation advises to avoid sugar rushes and crashes. Some sugar at times is not necessarily bad, but it’s easy to get too much with all of the processed foods that we love. Children learn to like sugar very easily, and when they eat a fair amount, they want more. Help them make better choices like fruits, veggies, and whole grain breads and cereals with little sugar added. Foods low in sugar will help kids maintain energy levels throughout the day.

Michigan State University Extension says that letting kids get a little hungry (but not too hungry) between meals and snacks is ok to do. Most kids should have three meals and two to three snacks each day, about two to two-and-a-half hours apart. This helps children learn to regulate appetite, and notice feelings of hunger and fullness. If your children always ask for food, encourage water or milk between snacks and meals, because many times we think we are hungry but we are really feeling thirst. A pitcher of ice water flavored with fruits or veggies is another great tasting thirst quencher. Try mint leaves and cucumber, or basil and lemon, or various fruits in water. Limit the power drinks and pop and other high sugar beverages.

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