Healthy snacks play an increasingly important and vital role in how healthy children’s diets are developed and maintained. Between 1977 and 2021, the number of calories children consumed from snacks quintrose by 53 percent. This rise in daily calorie consumption has been blamed on the increased prevalence of fast food restaurants, convenience foods, “junk foods,” and processed and packaged foods. There is no arguing that increased calorie consumption can result in weight gain and increased risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, tooth decay, and cancer. Here are tips for parents, teachers, dieticians, and program leaders for serving healthy snacks to kids in the classroom, at school, at lunch, and everywhere else.
The first tip for healthy snacks is to limit snacking after meals. After dinner, plan to have a few healthy snacks to tide you over until lunch. For example, instead of having to fast food or a frozen meal with sugar or fat, try an apple, celery stick, cracker, or carrot snack cake. If you have trouble finding healthy snacks in between meals, consider serving your child a blended vegetable instead of a plate of French fries or pizza. Remember, that even with a snack, you want to get your kids active, so make sure you’re allowing for physical activity after they’ve eaten – and don’t count on junk food to keep them going.
Another smart snack idea is to serve your kids a variety of healthy proteins. Some great options include low-fat cheese, tuna salad sandwich with hummus, fresh fruit, chicken nuggets with low-fat ranch dressing, lean ham, lean turkey, and chicken breast. The key to making these foods interesting (without being boring) is to serve them on their own separate platter, such as on top of a deli platter, with their favorite dip, or as a sandwich on whole-wheat toast. Even if you don’t serve them on their own platter, try including a protein drink like milk or a protein drink in their protein muffin or hotdog meal. For an easy healthy snacks for school, create a ham and cheese pasta salad. For a high protein lunch, grill a lean beef filet with fresh salsa and serve with tomatoes, bell peppers, and onion.
For a low-calorie snack, try serving your kids almonds, cashews, or sunflower seeds instead of regular chips or chocolate chips. For a high protein lunch, serve your kids a lean ham with tomato, bell pepper, and onion; or grilled chicken with lettuce and tomato. For an easy healthy snacks for school, make a chicken nugget parfait with lean ham, tomato, zucchini, cucumber, and walnuts. For a quick healthy snack, toss popcorn into a pan with some low-fat reduced-sugar butter. You can also bake popcorn tortillas and serve toasted, rather than fried, crackers.
For a healthy snack, serve your kids plain yogurt topped with low-fat sour cream, or with some low-fat cottage cheese. If you want to add some extra protein, try adding a layer of low-fat yogurt. Nuts are another favorite healthy snacks for kids, with peanut butter being their favorite choice. Kids love to eat peanuts, which makes good healthy snacks for school. However, you should avoid peanuts that are high in calories, such as those that are used for animal treats.
For a good-for-you healthy snacks for school, replace sugar with honey, agave, or maple syrup. Nuts and seeds are good, but you may want to avoid any peanut butter, especially the ones that have artificial flavors. Instead, opt for walnuts, almonds, or pecans. To make a healthy snack that is both delicious and nutritious, mash up some fresh bananas and put them in a bowl. Then add a handful of granola and chocolate chips. Both are good-for-you ingredients like oats, fruits, and nuts.
High-fiber snacks are perfect for those times when you need a little pick-me-up between meals. One example of a high-fiber snack is a glass of fruit juice. If you drink fruit juice on a regular basis, you probably feel that your stomach contains enough gas to fill you up for several hours throughout the day. Adding a few apples to your glass will help you feel fuller for longer, preventing you from gorging on sweet snacks all day. Nuts, seeds, granola, rice, pasta, or vegetables are all excellent healthy filling snacks, and they pack a lot of nutrition without packing on the calories. You can also find foods that have high-water content, such as peas, beans, carrots, squash, or dried beans.
When you eat snacks that have a lot of fiber and high-water content, you are helping your body to process food more quickly, which helps you burn calories faster. This makes you lose weight because you feel less hungry throughout the day. Many people who eat a lot of fast food and processed foods tend to feel sluggish for a number of reasons. Poor-quality carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and chemicals like trans fats and artificial flavorings add to the problem. Instead, choose fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains for snacks, and choose healthy carbs like whole wheat bread instead of white bread to make sure you get more fiber and nutrients like whole grain bread.