Milk and cookies might just be the age-old kiddie classic, but you want the best for your kids. So like many parents, you try to be firm about healthy eats, though choosing between convenience and nutrition is a daily battle – especially at snack time. According to Rockland-based registered dietitian (RDN) Taylor D’Anna, after school snacks don’t have to be junk or bust. Here, she dishes on easy ways to get kids to eat healthy – minus the temper tantrums and tears.
1. Make it new and exciting
Even if your child is a picky eater, try to expand their palate with flavors they have yet to experience. “Most supermarkets now carry lesser known or exotic produce varieties,” D’Anna says. “Grab a starfruit or passion fruit and cut it up for a nutritious and accessible snack that may even become a part of your weekly shopping list.”
2. Have snacks accessible and ready to go
Every second counts when you’re cooking for a tired, hungry child. “Make snacks ahead of time, or have fresh fruits and vegetables already cut up and put in the fridge,” D’Anna says. “This helps avoid the urge of grabbing something easy and unhealthy, like chips or cookies.” And if you can’t prepare a snack before your kids get home, she says, “Just make sure their snack doesn’t require more than 10 minutes to prepare.”
3. Make it portable
Kids are busy. Soccer on Mondays, dance on Tuesdays, Wednesdays are blocked off by swim meets – you know how a typical school week goes. They might run into the house for a few minutes to drop off bags and grab equipment, but then they’re out again, headed to the next activity. Although there’s little time to spare, a quick snack is important, says D’Anna. “Not eating before a practice, game, or dance class can impede optimal performance and can lead to fatigue. To help avoid hunger before getting home for dinner, pack a to-go container of cut up fruits and veggies, hummus and carrots, or a handful of protein-filled nuts for kids to grab and eat on the way to activities,” she suggests.
4. Hydration is key
When kids are thirsty, they often reach for sugary juice boxes — or worse, chemical-laden soda. So, D’Anna advises keeping flavored water in the fridge to wean them off of the sweet stuff. Instead of buying some, you can make your own. “Fill up a spouted water container and add in fresh cut fruit or mint,” she says. “Keep it in the fridge so that your kids can quickly access this hydrating and tasty alternative when they run through the door. Try new flavor combinations to keep things fresh and exciting.”
5. Get your kids in the kitchen
“Have your child participate in making their healthy snack,” D’Anna says. “It’s a great way to encourage them to eat well.” Aside from this being a great learning opportunity, kids less likely to create a fuss if they’re invested in what they’re eating. So, here are two easy recipes that are perfect to make with your kids:
Core an apple of any variety.
Slice apple into 1/2 -1″ horizontal slices.
Top with your favorite nut butter or hummus and sprinkle with toppings of your choice. D’Anna suggests toasted coconut, chocolate chips, blueberries, or honey.
French Toast Sweet Potato Fries
Slice a sweet potato into wedges.
Coat with cinnamon and a drizzle of olive oil.
Spread evenly on a lined sheet pan and bake at 375 degrees F until fries are crispy and cooked through.
For sauce, mix 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp. cinnamon, and a drizzle of maple syrup in a small dish.
Serve fries warm with dipping sauce.