It is possible to make fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy products and whole grains appealing to your kids. Here are some tried-and-true methods for making kids shout, "Hooray for healthy foods!"
Let Them be Choosy
An afternoon snack gives kids the energy to play outside or do their homework. The important thing is to provide kids with choices. If all the choices you give them are reasonably nutritious, then everybody's happy: your kids get to choose their snacks, and you get to ensure that they're eating healthfully.
Take a Dip
Kids love anything they can dip! A baggie full of carrot and celery sticks, cucumber and bell pepper slices, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes will disappear like magic if there's a tub of dip to go with them.
Make some ranch dressing using low fat ingredients, or make a batch of nutritious hummus, bean dip or salsa.
Baked tortilla chips and whole wheat crackers or pita triangles are perfect, nutritious and kid-pleasing accompaniments for dips, too.
Sliced fruit takes on a whole new appeal as well when it's accompanied by a sweet, creamy dip. Good fruit dips include flavored yogurt, applesauce, low fat sour cream sweetened with honey or brown sugar, and caramel ice cream topping.
Let kids construct their own snacks. You'll keep them occupied and they might be more likely to sample whatever nutritious foods they're working with.
Fruit Kabobs: Stick melon balls, berries, pineapple chunks, and cubed peaches, pears or apples onto frilled toothpicks.
Mini Sandwiches: Use crackers or cut-up bread--or give the kids a few slices of bread, lunch meat, and cheese, and a couple of miniature cookie cutters to make tiny, fun-shaped sandwiches.
Pizza: Who can resist pizza? Pizza can be a perfectly healthy snack. Use half an English muffin, a whole pita, or a tortilla as a pizza crust. Let them smear on a bit of bottled tomato sauce, add a light sprinkle of low-fat mozzarella cheese, and then top with chopped vegetables and maybe a bit of lean meat. Heat for a few minutes in the toaster oven or microwave, then cut into triangles for extra kid-appeal.
We usually equate frozen snacks with special treats, like ice cream and snow cones. Take advantage of that association: frozen grapes are cool like popsicles and sweet like candy, but they've got plenty of vitamins and fiber too. Peel and freeze bananas, then roll the frozen fruit in chocolate syrup and chopped nuts. Other favorites include peach and nectarine slices, and berries of all kinds. Turn any combination of frozen fruit, milk, yogurt, juice and ice into a delicious, nutritious "milkshake."
Even traditional desserts can become healthy, well-balanced snacks.
Make cookies and muffins with applesauce in place of some of the fat, and add oats, dried fruit, nuts and whole wheat flour.
Achieve the cool, creamy deliciousness of ice cream with low fat frozen yogurt, or pudding made with nonfat milk and frozen into pops.
Top a big, fluffy slice of angel food cake with fresh fruit to add vitamins and fiber, or cut it into cubes for dipping into fruit-flavored yogurt for an extra dose of calcium.
Establish a Snacking Zone
When hungry kids burst through the front door after school, they grab whatever is easy and available. So it's best to have a few things prepared in advance. Designate one shelf of the refrigerator and/or pantry as the "snack shelf," with the understanding that anything that's on that shelf is okay to eat without having to ask permission first. Then, stock the shelf with several choices--a little healthy variety to hold the kids' interest and keep you from worrying about them overloading on junk.
Extracurricular activities keep some kids at school throughout the afternoon. Fruit, vegetable sticks, crackers, cheese, granola bars, healthy cookies, and muffins, and peanut butter sandwiches are all high-energy foods that hold up well in a locker until your hungry kid is ready for a homemade pick-me-up. Homemade munchies also helps them avoid the sugar and fat-laden temptation of the vending machine or convenience store.
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