Veggies for Kids: Healthy Snacks

Here are several thoughtful-yet-practical tips for serving up healthy snacks for kids. They've have been condensed from the Burlington Free Press, where you may read the complete story.

Stick close to nature.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the best snack choices because they offer strong nutrition value with no additives.
  • Beyond that, the shorter the ingredients list, the better
    • A box of raisins (with one ingredient) vs
    • Gummy snacks (pear concentrate + three forms of added sugar + partially hydrogenated oil).
  • Don't be a purist: If it takes a little ranch dressing to get your child eating fresh veggies, it's a small price to pay.
No more white bread.
  • Look for at least 2 grams of fiber per serving of any grain-based product such as bread, cereals or crackers.
  • When choosing cereal, follow the "3-3-9" rule
    • 3 grams of fiber
    • no more than 3 grams of fat
    • no more than 9 grams of sugar.
Be a label reader.
  • Avoid trans-fats (usually listed as hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils)
  • Check that other solid fats, including saturated fat and cholesterol, are low.
  • Avoid added sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup.
  • For children older than 2, focus on skim or 1 percent-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt.
Build "staying power."
  • All-carb snacks (crackers, popcorn) don't provide long-lasting fuel. Instead combine "go" (energy) food and "grow" (protein) foods in one snack:
    • Spread a whole-wheat mini-bagel with cream cheese or natural peanut butter.
    • Offer whole grain crackers with string cheese.
No new-stuff at school.
  • Try new things at home first or it's likely they will remain uneaten.
  • Research say it may take 10-15 exposures to a new food before a child likes a new food.
Family food fun.
  • Let the kids help because participation means they'll be more open to trying new things.
  • Let kids choose from a range of healthy options presented by the parents:
    • different spreads for crackers;
    • dip for vegetables;
    • choices for fruit, veggie and cheese skewers;
    • ingredients for a family trail mix recipe.
  • Then make the snacks together.
Easy does it.
  • Many processed snacks are designed for grab and go.
  • For similar convenience, buy inexpensive snack-size plastic containers with lids to keep snacks fresh, uncrushable and convenient.
  • Have your kids help you measure out servings of corn chips, trail mix and dips at the beginning of each week.
  • Dedicate a shelf in the pantry and a corner of the fridge to healthy snacks so that kids can easily help themselves.
Avoid a showdown.
  • It's best to be clear from an early age where responsibility lies.
    • Parents: Ensure that healthy foods are available.
    • Kids: Choose if and how much to eat.
  • When parents give choices, it should be two or three choices, not 'What do you want to eat?'
  • Be flexible. If food becomes a battleground, it becomes harder to try new things.
Be realistic.
  • Change doesn't have to come immediately or overnight. Just take baby steps (bites!).
  • And every once in a while, candy is OK.
VEGGIES for KIDS is a continuing crusade here at A Veggie Venture, a forum for parents wanting to encourage healthful eating habits at home and school. What works for you? What would you like to fix at your own table? Leave a comment, send an e-mail or write your own post -- ideas and links along with kid-tested recipes will be posted in Veggies for Kids.
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.