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Snack foods for healthy kids

August 2012

healthy foods kids snackby Adelina Espat

Are you looking for kid-friendly snack ideas? We’re here to help.

 Snack time isn’t meal time, after all. But it’s still a great opportunity to fill your kids with foods rich in vitamins and minerals that keep their immune systems strong. And, eating nutritious foods can help protect your kids’ cells from damage that can lead to cancer later in life.

Get inspired with these tips for healthier snacks.

Focus on portion control               

Plant-based foods — like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans — boast the best disease-fighting nutrients. But even these foods need portion control.

That’s because too many daily calories can lead to unhealthy weight gain and increased cancer risks. Find out how many calories your kids need. Then, make sure they’re getting just the right amount from snacks.

Control portion sizes by dividing snacks into healthy-sized servings before feeding your kids. Try these tips to keep snack servings small.  

  • Choose mini plastic containers for one-item snacks.
  • Use baking cups to create dividers in larger containers for multi-item snacks (like veggies and dip).
  • Fill an ice cube tray with mini-servings of snack foods.
  • Pack to-go foods in snack-size plastic bags.

healthy foods kids snackMake healthy snacks easy and grabbable  

Create your own refrigerator snack station with grab-and-go snack options. It’s worth the effort! Kids are less likely to give in to unhealthy snacking if a healthy option is within reach.

Pre-package snack stashes using the portion control tips above. Not sure what to include? Stock your station with some of these healthy snacks: 

  • Baby-cut carrots  
  • Celery sticks
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Apple slices
  • Grapes
  • Orange segments
  • String cheese
  • Natural peanut butter (for dipping)
  • Hummus (for dipping)
  • Peanut butter yogurt (for dipping). Get the recipe.

Make sure your kids don’t empty the snack station in one day. Play it safe by talking to them about why it’s important to practice portion control. 

healthy foods kids snackSelect healthy store options

If you’re shopping for prepackaged snacks, beware. Most popular store-bought snack packs lack essential nutrients. And they’re loaded with empty calories from solid fats and/or added sugars.

Before buying, read food labels and stay away from snacks high in salt, sugar and/or calories. That includes cracker snack packs. Also, try to avoid deli meat. Research shows that eating too much processed meat, like ham and turkey slices, can increase a person’s cancer risk.

Opt for these healthier store-bought options instead:

  • Single-serving bags of pre-sliced fruit
  • Single-serving cups of unsweetened applesauce
  • Whole grain crackers or pita chips
  • Plain or Greek yogurt with fruit

Now, the next time you hear the words, “Can I have a snack?” you’ll be prepared to respond with some kid-friendly, nutrient-packing options!

Related Links:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Kids Eat Right

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center