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Try These Creative and Healthful Ways to Tame a Snack Attack

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., F.A.N.D., Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist and Professor, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Candy, cookies, chips and cake are among the snacks kids choose most frequently, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey. Calories can add up quickly from some snacks and beverages. For example, one can of soda pop has up to 170 calories, and a candy bar has about 250 calories. Neither option is rich in nutrients to support the needs of growing kids.

  • Plan snacks with your child so you buy nutritious foods he or she likes and will eat.
  • Involve your child in grocery shopping by letting him or her pick out one new fruit, vegetable or other nutritious food each time you shop.
  • Keep baggies of cut-up fruits and veggies in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack.
  • Prepare snacks the night before so they are ready when you need them.

Snack time is the perfect opportunity to fill some “nutrition gaps” with well-chosen snacks. Consider providing more fruits and vegetables as snacks. Getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables can be challenging sometimes, so make snack time fun. For example, try serving veggies with low-fat dip or providing a variety of cut-up fruits and veggies and letting your kids create kabobs. If your kids are preschoolers, you may need to help them.

Don’t be surprised if you are attempting to get your child to try a new fruit, vegetable or other nutritious food and he or she doesn’t like it. You may need to offer your child a new food 10 to 15 times before he or she will eat it, according to nutrition researchers.

Invite kids into the kitchen to help you. They’re more likely to eat foods they’ve had a hand in preparing. They’ll also learn what portion sizes look like and be better able to make smart food choices.

Keep safety in mind, too. Remind children to wash their hands before preparing a snack and before eating. Children under age 5 are at risk of choking on food or other objects, so always supervise young children while they are eating. Also remind them to chew food thoroughly, take small bites and eat slowly.

Here are some ideas for creative snacks for kids, but adults might enjoy them, too. You can find more information at www.choosemyplate.gov and many more kid-friendly recipes at www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart.

  • Smoothie creations: Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen and/or canned fruits. Try bananas, berries, peaches and/or pineapple. If you use frozen fruit, you won’t need ice.
  • Delicious dippers: Whip up a quick veggie dip with low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt with herbs or garlic. Serve with raw veggies such as broccoli, carrots, peppers and cauliflower.
  • Caterpillar kabobs: Assemble chunks of melons, apples, oranges and pears on skewers. Alternatively, use vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers or tomatoes.
  • Personalized pizzas: Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels or pita bread as the crust. Top with tomato sauce or pizza sauce, shredded cheese and your favorite veggie toppings.
  • Fruity peanut butterfly: Start with carrot sticks or celery for the body. Attach wings made of thinly sliced apples with peanut butter and decorate with halved grapes or dried fruit.
  • Frosty fruits: Put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer. Make popsicles by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.
  • Bugs on a log: Use celery, cucumber or carrot sticks as the log and add peanut butter. Top with dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries.
  • Homemade trail mix: Use your favorite whole-grain cereal plus nuts and dried fruits, such as unsalted peanuts, cashews, walnuts or sunflower seeds mixed with dried apples, pineapple, cherries, apricots or raisins.
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