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Dietitian's Dish: Choose healthy snacks for your children

Sept. 13, 2011 at 4:13 a.m.

Loretta Cordes

By Loretta Cordes, MS,RD,LD,CDE

Now that the school year is well under way, it is important to make sure your children have nutritious snacks available to them in school and after school. In this fast-paced world of busy schedules, it is easy to lose focus of healthy eating.

Whether you have small children or teenagers, it is important to be mindful of the quality of snacks being offered to them. Having healthy snacks available to your children helps with proper growth and development, which can help your children develop good lifelong eating habits. This will promote a healthy lifestyle to help prevent the development of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

Here are some tips to focus on nutritious snacks for your children:

1. Beverages - Water should be the main beverage because it satisfies thirst the best. Limit fruit juice, and only choose 100-percent juice. Use juice drinks and sodas only on special occasions.

2. Fruits and vegetables - Try to make the majority of snacks consist of fruit and vegetables. Make it fun for your children to pick new fruit and vegetables to try. Do not forget about frozen fruit and dried fruit. Buy canned fruit that is canned in fruit juice. Fresh vegetables can be served with bean dip, hummus or salad dressings. Whole-wheat pita bread can be used to make veggie pockets. Nuts can be added to dried fruit.

3. Healthy grains - When shopping, look for whole wheat as the first ingredient. Choosing whole grains allows for more minerals, vitamins and fiber than refined grains. Examples of whole grain include rice cakes, popcorn, breakfast cereal, pita bread, tortillas or English muffins and granola. Peanut butter can be spread on whole-wheat English muffin with low-sugar jam. It is important to limit sweets and potato chips to special occasions.

4. Dairy foods - Low-fat (1 percent) and skim milk are good beverage choices because they are good sources of calcium and vitamin D. There are a variety of low-fat yogurt flavors available. Granola can be a welcome addition to yogurt. Low-fat cheese can provide a nutritional snack with protein after a long day of school. Cheese can be served with whole-grain crackers, vegetables or fruit.

As you plan your snacks for your children, remember to keep it simple and nutritious.

Loretta Cordes is a registered and licensed dietitian with a master's of science degree in human sciences and certified diabetes educator. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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