Childhood obesity rates are rising every year and with no end in sight, parents are looking for more healthy alternatives for kids’ snacks. Even schools are starting to offer much healthier alternatives and many are removing soda, chips and candy from their vending machines. Unfortunately, with all of the sugary and salty snacks lining the shelves in the grocery stores, it’s hard to actually find healthy choices for the kids – especially when they are reaching for all of the fun looking packages in the store!
Fortunately, there are many very healthy foods that you can give your kids for snacks that will satisfy their cravings for sweets or salty, crunchy snacks.
What are some healthy alternatives for kids’ snacks?
Fruits are nature’s sweets. They are very satisfying, sweet and juicy, and are full of vitamins and antioxidants that kids need. Apples are a great source of fiber; peaches and pears are loaded with vitamins and bananas are a good source of potassium and fiber. Grapes, cherries and berries are perfect for taking to school or daycare, since there’s no chopping involved and they stay fresh and neat in lunch boxes. Blueberries, in particular are full of antioxidants are a good source of vitamins C and K. Try slicing up a few different fruits and serving them with yogurt for a dip. For a huge dose of goodness in one shot, try making fruit smoothies, or even frozen smoothie popsicles.
Carrot sticks and baby carrots are a common favorite with many kids. With or without dip, they are easy to pack in lunches or eat on the go. Celery, broccoli, cauliflower and sliced red bell peppers are yummy, crunchy snacks that will help tide the kids over until supper too. While I could never convince my kids to eat it, another popular kids’ snack is “ants on a log.” I know, it sounds scary, but it is just a celery stick filled with peanut butter with raisins on top. Most kids love it!
While microwave popcorn packages have a pretty scary ingredient list and are way too high in fat and sodium, air popped popcorn is actually an excellent choice when the kids are craving a crunchy salty snack. You can drizzle just a bit of melted margarine or sprinkle a bit of salt on and it’s delicious.
Kids need all the calcium they can get for building strong bones and teeth. Chocolate milk seems like a treat, but it is every bit as nutritious as white milk.
Many of the yogurt cups you find in the grocery store are very high in sugar, so instead, buy plain yogurt and add fresh or frozen fruit, honey or a little jam to it. An excellent source of calcium, yogurt is a good choice for people who have a hard time digesting milk.
Forget the Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs – they’re way too high in sugar and low in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Cheerios are a great choice, especially for toddlers. Oatmeal is very nutritious, but don’t load it up with sugar. Try adding fruit or berries and a little pure maple syrup for a tasty, nutritious breakfast or snack. There are many nutritious, high fiber cereals to choose from. Look for those made with whole grains and with little or no sugar added.
Stay away from the processed cheese slices and spreads. Instead, go for the cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, havarti or other mild cheeses. Cheese is a good source of protein, calcium and minerals. A classic snack, crackers and cheese is a good choice if you use a good quality cheese and multigrain crackers. Check the fat content on the crackers and choose a low fat version with no trans fats. Another excellent combination is grapes and cheese. My kids love cubed cheddar and green grapes for a snack. If your kids like olives, (not many do) olives and cheese are a tasty snack too.
Nuts and seeds
Many children these days have some pretty severe nut allergies, and peanuts are the biggest culprit. If your kids can tolerate nuts and seeds, though, they make a very nutritious and filling snack that is great on the go too. Don’t just stick to peanuts and sunflower seeds, though. Branch out and introduce almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pecans and walnuts too. Try pumpkin and hemp seeds for variety as well.
There are so many healthy alternatives for kids’ snacks – these are just a few to get you started. Use your imagination and engage the kids in picking out nutritious snacks on your next grocery trip. Get them involved even more by letting them help to prepare the snacks or even bake some homemade granola bars or oatmeal cookies. Snack time can be fun and nutritious!