Poor snack habits, such as eating a large serving of one kind of food, are common and can cause overeating and obesity in children.
Mixing food groups is key to your child’s diet
Poor snack habits, such as eating a large serving of one kind of food, are common and can cause overeating and obesity in children, according to Karen Boomer, a nutritionist at Norton Children’s Hospital and University Pediatric Endocrinology Associates in Louisville.
Parents should strive to combine at least two food groups, such as a protein and a carbohydrate, to provide a more filling, nutritious snack option. “Teaching kids how to eat properly and in a fun way will set a healthy course for their whole life,” Boomer said. “We tend to feed our kids prepackaged food because it’s easy and quick, but those foods are loaded with sugar, salt, fat and extra calories, which lead to an unhealthy diet.”
Examples of fun, healthy snack combinations
- Make sandwiches with cookie cutters using whole-grain bread and meats or peanut butter.
- Serve sticks of raw carrots, celery and red peppers with low-fat ranch dip. See if your kids can make shapes and figures with them.
- Use food to learn about different cultures. For example, host a Greek night and serve hummus and pita wedges.
- Alternate layers of low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit in a parfait glass.
- Build a mini salad bar with small bowls of lettuce, sliced almonds, low-fat shredded cheese and raw vegetables.
- Roll a frozen banana with yogurt and cereal and re-freeze.
Healthy lifestyle suggestions
- Serve 1 percent or skim milk with items like crackers and fruit to add calcium and protein.
- Serve plenty of vegetables, fruits, turkey, chicken and tuna, which have little to no fat and provide essential nutrients.
- Eat meals and snacks at the table. A child who will move to the table to eat is truly hungry. Eating as a result of boredom or emotions usually leads to overeating.
- Children may be more willing to accept healthier snacks if allowed to participate in choosing them. Including your child on a trip to the grocery store gives him or her a say in food selections. Helping with snack preparation may encourage your child to try new foods.