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Contact: Connie Eisch, 715-421-8440
Email: connie.eisch@ces.uwex.edu
Entry Date: April, 2009
File Under: Nutrition / Health

Choose healthy, inexpensive treats for your children’s snacks

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. - “Mom, I’m hungry!”

It’s a common lament in many households. Kids today often need a snack before it’s time for their next meal, but finding the right snack may be trickier than you’d think.

Snacks should be healthy and meet kids’ daily nutritional needs. They should also be tasty, so your kids will want to eat them. And they should be affordable.

A nutritious snack provides a food from at least one food group and at the same time, is not excessively high in fat, sugar and salt.

“Having healthy foods on hand will help ensure that kids eat healthy snacks,” says Connie Eisch, University of Wisconsin-Extension family living agent for Wood County.“If there’s no ‘junk’ in the house, kids won’t be tempted to choose unhealthy foods. Consider leaving a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter, or keep a dry cereal snack mix in the cupboard and cartons of yogurt in the refrigerator.”

Don’t insist that hungry children wait hours to eat, Eisch advises. By the same token, it is wise not to let your kids eat something substantial right before a meal. Encourage independence and let your children prepare some snack foods if they are not too complicated or dangerous. For example, school-age children can combine cereal and dried fruit for a quick snack mix.

Encourage kids and reward them for cleaning up. Start with easy snacks such as a bowl of cereal, apple slices with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, raisins or baby carrots with bean dip. (Teach food safety by using plenty of soap and water and keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold.)

“Ask your children to make a list of the snack foods they like. If you both choose the foods for snack time, the treats will be more acceptable to you and your child. If there are some snacks you don’t feel meet the ‘healthy’ standard, buy them as an occasional treat and offer alternatives,” says Eisch.

Shop for snacks by yourself with the list you decided upon; this will help forego further “negotiations” in the grocery store. And buy a variety; no one likes eating the same thing day after day. Try snacks like chocolate milk, string cheese, grapes, raw veggies such as grape tomatoes, bananas and graham crackers.

“You don’t have to break the bank buying healthy snacks for your children,” says Eisch. “Watch the sales flyers from the grocery store and buy your family’s favorite snacks when they go on sale. Purchase fruits and vegetables in season for the best prices. Make your own ‘fun-sized’ packs and put string cheese, crackers, dry cereal, baby carrots, canned fruit or pudding in small washable cups or baggies. Buy unique, washable cups for your kids to fill with water and keep in the refrigerator.”

Have fun with your child and be creative about snack time. Make smoothies out of vanilla yogurt and a variety of fruits, kabobs out of fruit and cheese, or make a trail mix out of your families’ favorite nuts, dried fruits, popcorn, cereal and snack crackers.

Turn dipping into an adventure--dip pita wedges into hummus, baby carrots into low-fat ranch dressing, granola bars into yogurt, or baked tortilla chips into salsa.

“Use your imagination to come up with fun, nutritious snack ideas with the kids. With your help they will learn kitchen and food safety skills and develop lifelong good eating habits,” says Eisch.

UW-Extension Family Living Programs can suggest more ways for your family to eat healthy. To learn more, contact your local county UW-Extension office.