One Voice Illinois

Smart Snacks at Home

Your kids come out of school and ask the inevitable question, “Can I have a snack?” The fact is that kids need to refuel approximately every four hours to keep their energy up and snacking is not bad. It’s what you decide to give them that matters the most.

Cookies, chips, and soda can sometimes add up to 600 calories or more, which could be the equivalent of a meal. These snacks are usually empty calories, high in sugar, which gives instant energy but are followed by a crash. Schools were not helping matters by offering poor choices in vending machines, but that is changing with the new Smart Snacks guidelines. That change doesn’t have to be limited to school, though. Bring Smart Snacks into your home as well.

Follow these tips for providing the absolute best for your children nutritionally while still having snacks be tasty:

  1. Keep it simple and look at the big picture! Shoot for snack that hits two or three food groups: protein, dairy, fruit, veggies, whole grains, or healthy fats rather than micromanaging the calories or specific ingredients.
  2. Combo it! Kids eat about 72% fewer calories when given a cheese and veggie snack, which is less boring and more satisfying, versus a pile of chips.
  3. Make it cool! When you offer a snack, ask your child what their favorite superhero would eat. In a study where 6 to 12 year olds were asked about what Batman or Spiderman might eat and then asked to make their own snack choices, 45% chose apple slices over fries, thereby lowering their calorie intake.
  4. Serve it up on kid-sized plates! Smaller dishes result in smaller portions. Adults, worried about your intake? Use smaller dishes too!

So what can you serve your kids? Here are some ideas:

Do the Dip!

Nothing satisfies like a crunchy-smooth combo of dipping sticks and saucy spreads. To keep calories low and nutrients high, pair 1 cup of fruits and veggies with a dip. Just be sure to stick with the recommended serving size!

Grab and Go

In the real world, sometimes pre-packaged snacks have to suffice. Don’t sweat it: These options are all healthy picks, says Rachel Meltzer Warren, R.D.

Chip In!

Keep the crunch but lose the grease with these healthy options.

Get Cheesy!

Pair protein with quality carbs for a filling fruit-and-cheese combo that’s sure to please your kid’s palate. Serve 1.5 ounces of cheese (about three small cubes or 1 ½ slices) or 1/2 cup cottage cheese with about a cup of fruit slices.

Mix It Up!

“Trail mix is a healthy, protein-rich favorite in my house,” says Maryann Jacobsen, R.D. “Your kids can build their own by choosing their favorite ingredients—just keep the proportions in check.” To make a big batch that you can store in a jar or plastic baggie, use this easy formula:

Tip: Save those little plastic cups that applesauce and diced fruit come in. They’re about ½ cup—the perfect size for a single serving of trail mix.

For more tips on nutritionally sound snacks read Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School by Jessica Crandall, Rachel Warren, and Maryann Jacobsen.

Note: Information for this article was taken from Snack Nutrition: What Makes Up a Healthy Snack? and Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids, both by Holly Pevzner, Parent & Child Magazine.