“Can I have a snack?”
That question is all too familiar to so many of us. If you have kids or have spent any length of time with them, you know kids snack A LOT! In fact, research indicates that today’s youth enjoy as many as three snacks daily.
And, while snacks aren’t necessarily a bad thing – often delivering essential nutrients and helping little tummies get from one meal to the next – if chosen incorrectly, snacks of low nutritional value only fuel the growing problem of obesity among our youth. Especially when it is estimated that these snacks provide between one-third and one-half of their daily calorie needs.
So, what’s a parent to do when kids are wanting multiple snacks throughout these long days of summer?
The key to providing healthy snacks lies in how we think about them. If we understand that kids tend to eat small meals more frequently throughout the day, we need to think of snacks as mini-meals, with the goal of providing healthy foods that help fill nutritional needs. Aim for at least two food groups per snack/mini-meal – for example, a fruit and a protein or veggies and a dairy food. If snacks are more than “snack foods,” kids will get closer to meeting their nutritional needs – while not filling up on foods that only fill them out.
Here are some healthy summer snacks that can be prepared ahead of time:
- Whole Grain Crackers With Cheese. Make the cheese more interesting by cutting it with cookie cutters into kid-friendly shapes. Prepare small Tupperware containers with a few slices of shaped cheese and some whole grain crackers and place them on a shelf in the refrigerator for easy “grab-and-enjoy.”
- Cheese and Fruit Kabobs. Alternate fresh diced melon, fresh berries or grapes and bite-sized blocks of cheese on skewers. Or better yet, let the kids make their own kabob patterns with various fruit and cheese options. Add another twist with waffle chunks and a yogurt dip featured in this Breakfast Cheese and Fruit Kabobs recipe.
- Apple and Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Core an apple and slice it thin with the core in the middle of each slice (so your apple slices are rings with a hole in the middle). Spread a dollop of peanut butter between 2 slices of apple for a fun and healthy snack “sandwich.”
- Fresh Fruits or Vegetables With a Homemade Yogurt-Based Dip. Kids love to dip! Try making the dressing and cutting and bagging the veggies ahead of time so it’s an easy snack for kids to enjoy any time of day.
- Miniature Yogurt Parfait. Layer vanilla yogurt and berries in clear disposable cups and place in the refrigerator. When snack time rolls around, let the kids sprinkle their favorite granola, diced nuts or dried fruits on top for a colorful, yet nutritious, snack.
- Deli Meat and Cheese Roll-Ups. An easy snack that can be prepared and pre-portioned in advance of snacktime. Try a variety of cheeses and meats for differing flavors.
- Homemade Trail Mix. Try including nuts, pretzels, dried fruit or banana chips. Place a variety of trail mix ingredients in containers and let the kids help you make 10 to 15 little bags of trail mix for easy summer snacking.