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Serving health snacks to children is important to providing good nutrition, supporting lifelong healthy eating habits, and helping to prevent costly and potentially-disabling diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Snacks play a major and growing role in children’s diets. Here are ideas for caregivers, program directors and parents for serving healthy snacks and beverages to children after-school, at soccer games and elsewhere.

Eat your veggies

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. Most of the snacks served to children should be fruits and vegetables, since most kids do not eat the recommended 5 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Eating fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients like vitamins A and C and fiber. Most kids enjoy fruits such as: apples, grapes, bananas, watermelon, pears, pineapple, peaches, and blueberries. Try freezing grapes, strawberries, peaches, melons. Kids like a variety of colored fruit salads. If you use popsicles, look for the popsicles made from 100% fruit juice with no added calorie sweeteners, such as Breyers or Dole “No Sugar Added” fruit bars. Smoothies can be made from fruit blended with juice, yogurt, milk or ice. Store made smoothies have added sugars and are not a healthy choice. Vegetables can be served raw, with a dip or salad dressing. Kids enjoy making their own salads so set out veggies like a salad bar and let them build their own salads. Try dips and salad dressings low-fat or fat-free. Other dips can include bean dips, salsa, peanut butter or hummus. Kids like to spread peanut butter on celery and raisins this is called Ants on a Log.

HEALTHY GRAINS. Try to serve mostly whole grains, which provide more fiber, vitamins and minerals. Crackers like whole grain triscuits, or thin crisps, baked tortilla chips served with salsa or bean dip. Pretzels are high in salt. Granola bars that are whole grain and are low in fat and sugars such as Nature Valley Crunchy Bars.

LOW-FAT DAIRY. Dairy foods are a great source of calcium; however they are also the biggest sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in kid’s diets. Yogurt-look for brands that are low-in fat or fat-free no more than 30 grams of sugars. Examples: Danimals Drinkable Low-Fat Yogurt, Go-Gurt Yoplait. Choose reduced-fat cheeses like Borden or Sargento Light Mozzarella string cheese, Kraft Twist-Ums, or Cabot 50% Light Cheddar.

HEALTHY BEVERAGES. Water should be the main drink served to kids at snack times. Water satisfies thirst and does not have sugar or calories. Low-Fat and Fat-Free Milk provides key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) to avoid heart damaging saturated fat. Fruit Juices – try to buy 100% fruit juice and avoid the added sugars of juice drinks, punches, fruit cocktail drinks or lemonade. Many beverages like Capri Sun, V8-Splash, Tropicana Twisters, Sunny Delight, Snapple, Kool Aid Jammers are easily mistaken for juice. However, these beverages are more like soda than juice—they are merely sugar water with a few tablespoons of added juice. Sugar drinks can lead to tooth decay.

www.busycooks.about.com or www.healthyafterschoolsnacks


©2007 St. James Catholic Church, Hopewell, VA