Smart snacking for our kids

NEW HAVEN Conn. (WTNH) — Cooking during the holidays can be hard enough especially when it comes to getting our kids to eat health snacks.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Susie Zachman stopped by our station to show us three simple tips we can get our kids to eat healthy.

Zachman said a typical child gets between 25 – 40% of their daily calories from snacks. Unfortunately, the most popular snacks – goldfish, cheerios, Cheez-its, chips & cookies – are some combination of refined flour, added sugar and salt, all things with little to no nutritional value. So that is a lot of your child’s daily calories that aren’t really benefiting their health. And these refined carbohydrate snacks have no staying power, so your child will be hungry again very soon.

Three ways we can get our kids to eat healthy:

  1. Change your mindset.
    • Stop thinking of snacks as a stop-gap tool to help your child “survive until a real meal” & start thinking of them as “mini meals” (that you schedule & that include at least two food groups).
    • Young children have smaller stomachs so they need to eat every 2-3 hours; school age children about every 3-4 hours.
    • Add protein or fat to refined carbs, or swap refined carbs for whole grains (which have fiber). This gives your snacks staying power and your child won’t be hungry again in 15 minutes.
    • Schedule snacks like you do breakfast, lunch and dinner. Close your kitchen between scheduled snacks/meals to build appetite so that your children more open to trying new foods. If your children graze all day long, they won’t be interested in dinner.
  2. Fill in gaps.
    • Only 5% of children 2-17 years old achieve the daily target for vegetables (if you exclude fried potatoes) & 12% achieve their target for fruit. This is a lot of missed opportunity.
    • Think of snacks as a way to fill in some of the gaps in your child’s diet.
    • Examples: carrot/celery/cucumber sticks/snow peas dipped into hummus/ranch; plain low fat yogurt and fresh fruit; string cheese/peanut butter & apple slices; cottage cheese with diced seasonal fruit; yogurt, fruit, cereal parfaits; smoothies with fruit & 1/4 c fresh spinach; baked kale chips; baked sweet potato fries.
  1. Increase your odds of success
    • Make it fun: Take away stress or pressure and make snacks fun. Kids are more likely to try new foods and eat what you put on offer if it is fun and not anxiety provoking. They can even become creative art projects, which kids love!
    • Kids love things on sticks, so the skewers from tip #2 are one example of how to make it fun.
    • Another way to increase your odds is to give your children a choice. They like having some control. But don’t give them carte blanche.
    • So instead of saying “your snack is carrot sticks”, or asking a totally open-ended question like “what do you want for snack”, provide your child with two healthy choices like: “do you want string cheese + apple slices OR 1/2 mini bagel with peanut butter?”

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