Planned healthy snacks add nutrition

Maybe this is a bad time to talk about nutrition, but pediatricians wish we would, anyway. Meal and snack times provide opportunities to encourage healthy habits and conversation. However, these times can be so frustrating. When wise snacking is added to three nutritious meals a day everything can work out. Adults can achieve the total recommended daily guidelines for healthy children.

Foods That Satisfy

Over 27 percent of American children’s daily calories come from snacking or grazing. This snacking doesn’t need to be bad. It could be a food you had planned to offer at mealtime anyway as part of the five basic groups on a plate: about half fruits and vegetables, half grains and protein, and a glass of milk, cheese, or yogurt.

You can offer fruit and vegetables as snacks when kids are really hungry like pick up time after school. Since recommendations are two to three servings of fruits and vegetables per day, those fruit and vegetable snacks help you hit the nutritional guidelines target.

A snack that satisfies hunger might be cut up fruits and vegetables like oranges, bananas, pears, apples, thin shavings of carrots, or frozen peas and just a small amount of cereal or crackers. Add a little cheese, yogurt,or small piece of turkey. You may want to replace crackers with whole grain bread pieces, pockets or wraps and a little nut butter after checking with your physician.

Hydrate with Water

Another suggestion is to provide water or milk during mealtimes and snacks rather than juice or soda. Drinking water rather than soda is cheaper. It is caffeine and sweetener free and will become a habit.

It helps to set a good example when we eat a small snack and drink water or skim milk with our children. If possible, have your snack at the kitchen table without the phone or computer.

You may like to play a snack time game like I Spy Something Red or some other color to spark conversation. Another variation is to count the number of items of a color you can find in a room.

Alphabet and category games are also conversation starters. How many words can you think of that start with the letter B? What are three good things that happened today and one that could improve?

You can teach young children to read numbers on nutrition labels. Four year olds can look for smaller number of sugar grams and become very aware of what they eat. These little food detectives can compare labels on boxed cereals, soup, processed meats, frozen meals, and macaroni and cheese to find the lowest amounts of sweeteners.

For more ways to help children be healthy go to grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com; wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons; Facebook; and Pinterest.

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