Friday, March 02, 2007

Not for kids only - Healthy, fun snacks and desserts

I am frequently asked “What should I give my child for a snack?” That is a great question because snacks are important, particularly for our busy children who participate in after-school activities and weekend sports. Snacks are essential because they re-fuel our bodies and add nutrients that are needed for growth and health. With that in mind, we should feed our body with foods that prepare us for the next activity. For example, if your child is going from school to sports class, you will want to give them a snack that contains whole grains and a little protein. Whole grains are carbohydrates that provide sustained energy for our body. Protein is necessary for growth and development. Examples are peanut butter and all-fruit jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread or hummus on whole wheat pita bread. However, if your child is going to a less strenuous activity, you may want to give them something that is nutrient dense. A nutrient dense food is one that is loaded with nutrients but not calories. Examples include raw vegetables with hummus, salsa or bean dip, fresh fruit or low-fat or non-fat yogurt. Potato chips and corn chips are not nutrient dense. They are “empty calories” loaded with fat and no nutritional value. Your child deserves the best so that they can be successful in their daily activities.

But what if you are not around to give your child a freshly made snack? I created two sections of snacks and desserts. One section is fresh or refrigerated (if your child can carry a freezer bag with an ice pack) and the other is “backpack ready”. Backpack ready are prepared items that will stay fresh all day without refrigeration.

What about desserts? Yes, desserts can be fun and healthy. Instead of cookies or cake, try our family favorite, a fresh fruit parfait with yogurt. Sometimes we add chocolate sauce and other times granola. Pudding made with low-fat or non-fat milk is always fun and provides much needed calcium. Fruit flavored milk shakes made with your child’s favorite fruit and low-fat or non-fat milk are also calcium boosters. (Note: If you use soy milk, be certain that it is calcium fortified.)

Some of these snack items are packaged items that you will find in the supermarket. Read the label and avoid items that contain high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils/trans fat, sugar listed as the first ingredient, or fat, cholesterol or sodium daily value greater than 10%.

Fresh snacks (to be made at home and/or place in a freezer bag with an ice pack)
· Raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green pepper, green beans,
cucumbers, mushrooms or zucchini with hummus, salsa or bean dip.
· Whole wheat bread/pita with nut butter or hummus.
· Whole wheat crackers with low fat cheese
· Whole wheat wrap with chicken breast, turkey, vegetables, nut butter or hummus.
· Low fat or nonfat yogurt with fruit (total 1 cup)
· Low fat (1%) or non-fat (Cabot brand tastes good) cottage cheese with fruit (total 1 cup)
· Shakes with low fat or nonfat milk or yogurt and fruit (1 cup)
· Pre-portioned low-fat or non-fat pudding (1 individual serving)
· Pre-portioned oatmeal made with non-fat or low-fat milk and ¼ cup raisins
· Mozzarella “string-cheese”
· Hard boiled egg

Backpack Ready (will stay fresh all day without refrigeration)
· Raw vegetables
· Fresh fruit such as apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, grapefruit, grapes, melons, pears,
plums or strawberries.
· Pre-packaged all natural applesauce
· Pre-packaged unsweetened fruit juice (1/2 cup)
· Dried fruit (1/4 cup) or dried vegetables (1/2 cup)
· Nuts (1 oz)
· Pretzels (1 oz)
· Rice cakes (2)
· Whole grain fig cookies (example, Fig Newmans) (2)
· Graham crackers (2)
· Whole grain cereal (3/4 cup)
· Whole grain granola bars (example, Kashi brand)

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