Children love spending time with their parents in the kitchen. To help prevent childhood obesity, it is essential to teach children healthy eating habits and good decision-making with food. A great way to start with young children is by involving them in making nutritious snacks. Children are more likely to choose and enjoy a healthy option when they are involved in the process.
Peanut Butter Snacks
A creamy peanut butter dip is a great way to add extra nutrition and variety to a popular kid-friendly snack. Enlist children to help mix the following ingredients in a medium bowl: 3/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup raisins and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Provide each child with his own bowl and apples, celery and pretzels for dippers. For an extra special treat, try replacing the raisins with miniature chocolate chips.
Strawberry peanut butter crepes are a great option for children who are always hungry before dinner. The protein in the peanut butter will keep them full and children will love rolling up this treat. Have children spread two spoonfuls of peanut butter onto a store-bought crepe. If crepes are not available, try a whole-wheat tortilla. If desired, drizzle with honey for an added sweet treat. Top the peanut butter with 1/4 cup chopped strawberries. Roll-up the crepe and cut into slices.
A parfait is a healthier alternative to a sundae. They appeal to all ice cream lovers and the layered presentation makes this snack extra special for children. Provide children with tall serving glasses. Let them choose how they will layer their parfaits. Provide granola, yogurt and several types of fruit for options. Encourage young children to make a pattern such as yogurt, granola and fruit. Experiment with different flavors of granola and yogurt to keep this snack exciting. On a hot summer day, try replacing the yogurt with low-fat frozen yogurt.
Fruit and cheese kabobs are a creative twist on a simple snack. Using small cookie cutters, allow children to cut cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple into fun shapes. While children work with fruit, cut mild cheese into bite-size cubes. Provide children with wooden skewers and allow them to add the fruit and cheese. If desired, provide small fruit such as blueberries or raspberries as well. Young children will enjoy creating patterns. Store extra kabobs in the refrigerator.
In the summer months, replace sugary popsicles with nutritious homemade yogurt pops. In a large bowl, have children mix two cups of low-fat vanilla yogurt with one cup of mixed berries. Try any combination of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Have children spoon the mixture into popsicle molds or small paper cups. Cover the cups or molds with aluminum foil, cut a small slit in the top and insert a pretzel rod into each popsicle. Freeze until solid and remove from molds.
For children who love the crunch of potato chips, try sweet potato chips as a healthy alternative. Thinly slice two washed sweet potatoes and place in a large bowl. Add two teaspoons of oil, one teaspoon of sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the bowl. Allow children to get messy and mix the slices with their hands. Spread the slices on a greased baking pan and bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees, turning once. For children who prefer a salty chip, try replacing the sugar and cinnamon with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Children who crave french fries will enjoy this nutritious alternative. Carrot fries are packed with vitamins, but have the crunchy appeal of traditional french fries. Using a crinkle-cutter, slice carrots into fry-shaped pieces. Allow children to mix the carrot sticks with a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. If desired, add 1/4 teaspoon of thyme or another dried herb. Spread the fries on a lined baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
Try cauliflower popcorn as a healthy movie night snack. Have children toss three cups of cauliflower florets with two tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Roast the florets at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
Snacks on the Go
Help candy lovers choose a healthier portable snack by allowing them to make their own trail mixes. Provide a wide variety of nutrient-packed ingredients to encourage creativity. Nuts such as walnuts, peanuts and almonds provide a satisfying crunch while dried fruits such as cranberries, apricots, golden raisins or pineapple add a chewy texture. Children will also enjoy adding a handful of popcorn or their favorite cereal to the mix. Allow children to add a tablespoon of chocolate chips for a sweet treat. Shake the ingredients in a sandwich bag for a nutritious snack in the car.
For a unique snack on the go, try making a teddy bear sundae. Children will love making this nutritious snack in a bag. Cut open the top of a single-serve package of bear-shaped graham cookies. Allow children to drop in a few spoonfuls of their favorite yogurt or pudding. Top the sundae with sliced bananas, strawberries or mandarin oranges. Add a disposable spoon and this snack is ready to go.