Snacking between meals is the source of nearly 600 calories each day – that’s 25 percent of kids’ daily energy. With rising childhood obesity rates, parents might consider a ban on snack time to eliminate extra calories, but according to pediatricians, the goal is to plan – don’t ban. The most popular snack choices, such as chips, soda, cookies and sweets, are void of important nutrients that children’s diets are lacking, such as calcium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin E and potassium. With proper planning, snacks can become nutritious “mini-meals” that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
Be a Role Model Parent
In order to model good eating habits, parents should set the example and prepare healthy meals and snacks emphasizing nutritious foods and beverages. Children who see their parents wash down a bag of chips with a sugary soda are unlikely to choose a fruit cup and low-fat milk. Since adequate intake of key nutrients, including calcium, is important for all family members, pediatricians recommend parents model healthy habits. For example, studies show that children drink more milk when their moms drink milk.
Make Snacks Easy and Fun
Single serve cereal bars, portable yogurts, string cheese and fresh fruit should fill the refrigerator and pantry and be within reach of little hands. Fill a snack basket with kid-friendly snacks that children can choose independently. For example, kids love the taste of flavored milk. Flavored milk, like chocolate and strawberry, contains the same essential vitamins and minerals as white milk, and with nine out of 10 girls and seven out of 10 boys not getting enough calcium, that’s great news for moms. Studies have shown that when flavors are on the menu, kids drink more milk and fewer soft drinks.
Makeover Snacks into Mini Meals
When planning snacks, create a “mini-meal” that contains at least two of the five major food groups. Encourage children to try apple slices with string cheese or a yogurt parfait with whole grain cereal and fresh blueberries. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, eating calcium-rich dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese during childhood and adolescence may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life. You can’t go wrong with snacks that contain whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and low-fat yogurt, milk or cheese.
For more information, recipes and tips on this and other health related topics, visit SoutheastDairy.org, by clicking on the link below, or call 1-800-651-6455 (MILK) for additional information.