One of our favorite toddler food companies has shared some of their pointers from HAPPYFAMILY Nutrition Advisor Amy Marlow. Amy shares some common questions from parents. There’s no doubt that young children need snacks. Figuring out what to serve at snack time (and when, and how much) is the million dollar question. According to her, healthy and wholesome snacks don’t have to be a puzzle. Check out her Q & A below…
1. What are the most common challenges you hear from parents about getting children to eat healthy snacks? Parents of school-aged children often complain about the difficulty in finding healthy snacks that can compete with the junky snacks their kids see at school, on TV, at the store, and at friends’ homes. They often worry about repetition and wonder if it’s “bad” to let their child have the same snacks day after day. Many parents are also concerned that their child seems to be “hungry” for snacks all the time.
2. What are your best snacking strategies for addressing these challenges? One strategy is good role modeling. Select healthy snacks and enjoy them in front of your children. It’s also important to set boundaries with snacks. Don’t allow the child to make the selections at the grocery store, instead, give them healthy options to choose from.
To avoid over-snacking, set a snack-time just as you set meal times and then stick to it. Allowing your child to snack all the time will only ruin their appetite for meals and start a vicious cycle of filling up on snacks at the expense of healthy meals.
3. What are your best recommendations for nutritious snack options that kids will love, and why?
- Great snack products / standbys to rely on. Fresh fruit of course – keep carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, jicama, and other vegetables sliced in a container in the refrigerator. This is especially good for after school/before dinner when kids are hungriest.
- More go-to snacks
- Happy Squeeze smoothies (organic fruit combinations – some with vegetables, Salba® the Super chia, coconut milk or Greek yogurt – in convenient portable pouches from Happy Family)
- Whole wheat pretzels, organic cheese sticks and slices
- Unsweetened dry cereal, unsalted nuts and dried fruit – try combining all three to make a healthy trail-mix!
- Homemade whole grain pancakes which can be easily kept on-hand in the freezer
- Sweet Treats. Sweets have their place, and in my opinion, many children will just get obsessed with them if over-restricted. Give your children healthy sweets such as frozen grapes and homemade fruit popsicles, as well as the occasional ice cream, all-natural or homemade cookies, fruit leathers or fruit snacks. Don’t make every evening snack a sweet, but if you have a sweet treat in the house every so often, and control the portion size, this is a healthy way to teach moderation.
- Snacks that get kids involved in the prep
Two great snacks to make with your children are muffins and smoothies. There are plenty of muffin recipes made with nutrient-packed ingredients like fruit purees, oats, wheat germ, whole grain flours, and dried or fresh fruit. You can even sneak in some veggies. Let young kids mix the ingredients, and older children can measure the ingredients and pour the mixture into the muffin tins. To control portion size, use mini-muffin tins instead of full size. Don’t forget to make extra – they freeze well and are a quick snack anytime!Smoothies can easily be made at home with yogurt, fresh and frozen fruit, milk and ice. Kids can get involved by choosing the ingredients, putting them in the blender, and turning it on. Another tip is to freeze smoothies in popsicle molds for a healthy frozen dessert.
- Other snacking ideas. Parents should think about “real” food as being great potential for snacks, like sandwiches, quesadillas, pancakes and pizza bagels. Turn snack-time into a mini-meal instead of relying on less nutrient dense snack foods. This is a good strategy for two types of snackers – the active tween or teen who is truly ravenous all the time and the young child who tends not to eat enough at meal times
4. Please explain why it’s so important to get children to adopt healthy eating habits early in life and the possible future implications.
Eating habits are just that – habits. The best way to set up a child for a lifetime of healthy eating is to get them into the habit early through offering healthy foods in and out of the home. Physiologically, a key time for developing healthy food preferences is before age three, as that’s when the child’s taste buds are learning to accept and enjoy flavors.
Amy Marlow is a registered dietitian (RD) and New York State certified nutritionist. In addition to her work with Happy Family, Amy helps manage a Fortune 100 company’s employee wellness program and sits on the board of the New York State Dietetic Association. Amy is the proud mother of three.
HAPPYFAMILY is a leading premium organic food brand delivering nutritious meals and snacks for babies, toddlers and beyond. The company supports Project Peanut Butter, a nonprofit that feeds starving children Africa. Since its launch Happy Family has underwritten more than 1 million meals through PPB. For more information, visit www.happyfamilybrands.com