Recent data from market research firm NPD confirms what we all know – American kids are heavy snackers. Children aged 6 to 12 consume 4.1 snacks per day. Teens consume slightly less, just 3.8. Younger children munch mostly on foods provided by their parents. The older and more independent they become, the lower the parental influence.
For parents, this means that we have 4 opportunities every single day to healthify our kids’ diet. The challenges are not simple. First we need to overcome our children’s inherent preference for junk food, built up from infancy due to their exposure to heavy marketing. Next, we need to provide something that:
- tastes good
- adds nutritional value
- is easy to prepare
- is easy to serve
- does not cost too much
- last but not least…kids will actually eat.
Here is a list of some of some of our favorites:
1. Nuts and Seeds – go for the unsalted kind, just throw ‘em in a ziplock bag and they’re ready to eat. Make sure your child is old enough to thoroughly chew before swallowing. If you want to invest a little effort, you can roast the nuts in the oven for 30 minutes at around 250 degrees (Farenheit).
2. Dried Fruit – apricots, mango, raisin, cranberry, apple, pear, … – choose the unsweetened varieties – fruit is sweet enough on its own.
3. Homemade Trail Mix – this is so easy. Buy whatever nuts, seeds, and dried fruit your kids like in bulk. Mix in a bowl. Scoop into individual Ziploc bags and you have a week’s worth of snacks handy.
4. Bars – This is an extension of the dried fruit/nut concept – basically trail mix that has been shaped into a single bar. We are particularly fond of bars with minimal ingredients, KIND and LARABAR especially. By the way, it is easy to prepare your own bars too.
5. Homemade popcorn variations – Try them with grated cheese on top, or with raisins and dried cranberries, or sprinkled with spices such as paprika. You can prepare a big batch and prepack in plastic or paper bags.
6. Ants on a Log – This is a classic. Celery sticks filled with peanut butter, almond butter or cream cheese, dotted with raisins, or dark chocolate chips.
7. Fresh fruit – grapes, banana, sliced apple (with a few drops of lemon juice to stop the browning). It’s amazing how much kids will eat if you make it easier for them. For example, make sure the grapes and are separated into small bunches. Just leave them on the kitchen counter and the kids will find and devour them.
8. Fresh veggies - sliced cucumber, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with a tiny amount of salt to bring out the flavor. Again, just place on a plate in front of your kids as they are watching TV, and magically the veggies will disappear!
9. Hummus - whether in as pita, dipped with carrot or cracker, hummus (garbanzo bean spread from the Middle East) is becoming more popular in the US.
10. Homemade cookies – OK, not necessarily healthy, but hey, if you took the time to bake them from scratch with your children…
Want to add your suggestion to the list?