As kids return to school and your family settles into new routines, school lunches and snacks don’t have to be a source of added stress. When days get busy, be prepared with this primer on nutritious alternatives and common healthy snacking pitfalls to keep you sane and your kids healthy this school year.
Snacking, when done right, has the potential to be a valuable part of meeting your child’s nutritional needs. The best snacks provide much-needed fuel for active minds and bodies, not a fleeting sense of fullness followed by a sugar crash. Snacks should ideally come from food groups that children need more of, such as fruits and vegetables.
Study Up On Sugar
Added sugar is in 74% of U.S. food products. Many foods packaged as “natural” and “healthy” also include added sugars. There are also at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels; these include common names, such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, as well as barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, among others.
Though new food labels highlighting added sugar will help, they aren’t fully in effect. That’s why, without paying attention, it’s easy to overdose on added sugars even when you’re doing your best to purchase healthy snacks for your star student.
Know that the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar for children to between 3-6 teaspoons (12 – 25 grams) per day, so make a habit of turning over your packaged snacks to check the ingredients and sugar content. There are nutrient-dense, packaged snacks without added sugars that you can feel good about, but don’t be fooled by those that aren’t.
Lead With Veggies and Fruits
Getting your kids to eat healthily is easier when they are hungry! Be sure to offer them veggies and fruits first, before other foods that may not provide as many nutrients. For an easy A+ snack, dips are a perfect pair for fresh fruits and veggies. Studies show children will eat more vegetables when they are paired with dips, so consider dressing up your sliced veggies with hummus, guacamole and bean dips.
Fruit can get in on the action as well—naturally sweet apples pair well with nut butters and all fruits pair well with plain yogurt. You can even thread hearty fruits on a toothpick for a mini fruit kabob that will thrill little eaters. When looking at dips, make sure to avoid those with added sugars to get the most benefits.
The key to healthy eating has always been, and always will be, planning ahead. Most mistakes happen when families feel rushed, hungry, and don’t have healthy options readily available. Make sure to have truly healthy fresh and packaged snacks stocked to satiate little appetites at a moment’s notice. Buy in bulk or a subscription order from Amazon to cut down on time and energy spent constantly grocery shopping.
Consider creating a drawer in your fridge and pantry stocked solely with healthy snacks. Easy-to-grab and easy-to-stock snacks include cheese sticks, boiled eggs, nuts, sunflower seeds, pickles, olives, dried fruits, and mini veggies such as baby carrots, mini peppers, cherry tomatoes and broccoli florets. All of these selections require minimal prep by you and low spoilage time.
With a little preparation and all the right information, you can be sure to help your family thrive this school year!
Noha Waibsnaider, a mother of two, is the founder of Peeled Snacks, a maker of organic fruit and vegetable snacks. Committed to organic, clean food, Peeled Snacks makes a variety of vegetable and fruit snacks available nationwide in Whole Foods, Target, Amazon.com and grocery stores. Find out more at www.peeledsnacks.com.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.