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AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—With childhood obesity rates increasing in the United States, it is important for children to eat snacks that will support healthy development. While it may seem more appetizing and convenient to grab a candy bar or a bag of chips, parents can bring a fun new perspective to healthy foods that outshine junk foods.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many food group recommendations for kids are merely guidelines, and every child has different energy needs.
It is important to create an environment that allows your child to choose healthful foods for snacks. Prepare foods that contain readily available fiber, calcium and iron to set your child up to make good choices.
“Calcium is essential for children’s bone development—children four to eight years old are recommended to consume 1000 mg of calcium per day,” according to Katie Funderburk and Sofia Sanchez, registered dietitians with Alabama Extension SNAP-Ed at Auburn University. “Help your kids get enough calcium by serving low fat or 1% milk (for children 2 years and older), yogurt, cheese, oranges, broccoli, leafy greens and fortified cereals and breads.”
Traditional “health foods” may not always be the popular choice among young children. Here are some ways to make healthy snacks more fun.
A healthy snack doesn’t have to be a plain fruit or vegetable. Pique your child’s interest by transforming apples and cheeses with cookie cutters. Creating fun shapes, such as flowers and stars will transform the food into a colorful edible creation. Cookie cutters are simple and easy to use. Even your child can get involved in creating shapes.
Make a Scene
Transform a vegetable or fruit plate by creating a fun scene. Arrange the plate in such a way that takes each item of food and combines them all into one scene. You can create a smiley face, a tree or a favorite bug or animal.
There are plenty of fun options for busy, on-the-go days. String cheese offers a source of calcium. Fruit cups come in many different varieties and are easy to bring along. String any high fiber cereal onto a piece of yarn to make a tasty necklace that your child can take anywhere.
Sweet and Salty Popped Mix
Light microwavable popcorn, 3.5-ounce bag
1 ½ cup raisins
1 cup pretzels
½ cup mixed nuts
Microwave popcorn according to directions on bag. In large bowl, mix popcorn, raisins, pretzels and mixed nuts. Place in plastic snack bags for easy grab-and-go snacks.