Snacking can help your child curb hunger throughout the day, as well as provide energy and important nutrients. But the quality of the snacks is key. Consider these 10 tips for healthier children's snacks from the Mayo Clinic (see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/HQ00419
1. Keep junk food out of the house.
Your child won't clamor for cookies or candy bars if you don't keep them on hand. Instead, set a good example by snacking on healthy foods yourself.
2. Go for the grain.
Whole-grain snacks — such as whole-grain pretzels or tortillas and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals — can give your child energy with some staying power.
3. Mix and match.
Serve baby carrots or other raw veggies with fat-free ranch dressing. Dip graham cracker sticks or fresh fruit in fat-free yogurt. Top celery, apples or bananas with peanut butter.
4. Broaden the menu.
Offer out-of-the-usual fare, such as pineapple, cranberries, red or yellow peppers, mangoes, tangelos or roasted soy nuts.
5. Revisit breakfast.
Many breakfast foods — such as low-sugar, whole-grain cereals and whole-grain toast — make great afternoon snacks. Likewise, a small serving of last night's casserole could double as an after-school snack
6. Sweeten it up.
Healthy children's snacks don't need to be bland. To satisfy your child's sweet tooth, offer fat-free pudding, frozen yogurt or frozen fruit bars. Or use skim milk, fat-free yogurt and fresh fruit to make your own smoothies.
7. Have fun.
Use a cookie cutter to make shapes out of low-fat cheese slices, whole-grain bread or whole-grain tortillas. Eat diced fruit with chopsticks or make fruit kebabs. Make a tower out of whole-grain crackers, spell words with pretzel sticks, or make funny faces on a plate using different types of fruit.
8. Promote independence.
Keep a selection of ready-to-eat veggies in the refrigerator. Leave fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter. Store low-sugar, whole-grain cereal and fruit canned or packaged in its own juice in an easily accessible cabinet.
9. Don't be fooled by labeling gimmicks.
Foods marketed as low-fat or fat-free can still be high in calories. Likewise, foods touted as cholesterol-free can still be high in fat, saturated fat and sugar. Check nutrition labels to find out the whole story.
10. Designate a snacking zone.
Restrict snacking to the kitchen. You'll save your child countless calories from mindless munching in front of the TV. If your child needs to snack on the go, offer string cheese, yogurt sticks, cereal bars or other drip-free items.
Teaching your child to make healthy snack choices now will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy snacking. Start today!