Summer is a great time to give your kids’ snacking habits a reboot.
Start by purging your cabinet of any items that are clearly not doing your children any nutritional favors, like those gross Flamin’ Hot Cheetos that they love. Just ditch the junk food and stock up on healthy foods instead.
Toby Smithson, R.D.N., L.D.N., C.D.E. is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Chicago and founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com. He recommends picking nutrient-dense snacks, such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, low fat dairy and whole grains.
Try these healthy picks for single foods or combinations—no parental help needed:
- Cheese sticks
- Whole-grain crackers
- Tuna packets
- Dried fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Cereal bars
- Apple, orange, banana, grapes
- Hummus and raw vegetables (bell pepper slices, baby carrots, sliced cucumber)
- Nut butter on whole grain crackers
- Raw vegetables with yogurt dip (yogurt and dill)
- Fruit and yogurt parfait
- Whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk
Smithson also suggests having some fun preparing snacks with your kids. Fruit smoothies, for example, prepared with fresh or frozen fruit and low-fat yogurt, are healthy treats that the whole family can enjoy. Bean and cheese quesadillas and, of course, peanut butter (or any nut butter) and sliced apples are always a hit.
“Nut butter and banana sushi is a favorite kid friendly snack,” Smithson says. “Using a whole-grain tortilla, spread your favorite nut butter on the flat tortilla, then place a medium sized banana on top of the nut butter and roll up the tortilla. Cut into bite sized pieces for an easy-to-prepare, nutrient-packed snack.”
Smithson advises against fruit roll-ups or other fruit chew snacks that use fruit flavoring and not actual dry fruit. “Fresh or frozen fruit, dried fruit or canned, packed-in-its-own-juice fruit choices are better picks for a healthy snack.”
Finally, he says, “Not all popcorn is created equal, and popcorn starting from popcorn kernels can be a healthy snack.” In fact, Smithson says, popcorn is considered a whole grain, but many of the microwavable popcorn packages contain a lot of fat and calories, which turns them into a calorie-dense rather than nutrient-dense food choice.
Your best bet is to make popcorn from scratch, with the added benefit of cost savings too. “You can place 1/4 cup popcorn kernels in a glass bowl, cover with a plate and place in the microwave. Press the ‘popcorn’ button on the microwave, and within a couple of minutes you will have a lower fat, lower calorie snack when compared to the commercial or microwave versions. Your kids can season the popcorn with a variety of spices.”
- 16 cups freshly popped popcorn
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
In large bowl, combine all ingredients; toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately.
More great healthy snacks: