A young girl having a healthy snack of strawberries and milk

Smart Snacking for Families

Snacking is an important part of the daily routine, as long as it is done in a healthful manner. A small snack between meals more than four hours apart is a good idea to help tide someone over and prevent overeating. So what is a healthy snack? It is easiest to think of snacks as “mini-meals,” especially for children. This way, they are being provided with a variety of foods and nutrients for growing bodies.

Here are some of my favorite tips on how families can get the most out of snacking:

  • Meals and snacks should be at regular intervals, as children (and some adults, too!) do best with routine. Leave enough time between snacks and meals so that the snack is not sabotaging the meal.
  • Enjoy snacks while seated at the table whenever possible. Eating in front of the television, computer or while playing video games may lead to mindless eating and ignoring the body’s natural satiety cues.
  • Include fruit or vegetables whenever possible, as well as a source of protein in your snacks.

Here are some ideas:

  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie – Yogurt with fruit and nuts or seeds
  • Hummus with veggies (carrots, bell pepper strips, sugar snap peas)
  • Cheese, crackers and fruit
  • Veggies and low-fat or olive oil-based dip
  • Homemade trail mix with cereal, nuts or seeds and dried fruit
  • Granola bar – see the recipe below for an easy, do it yourself version!

Grab-and-Go Granola Bars: This recipe is a fun snack for adults and children – especially older children! Of course you’ll need to decide if it’s a good fit for your family based on your own dietary restrictions and any potential food allergies. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Makes 12 bars)

  • 1 cup quick cooking or old fashioned oats
  •  cup spoon-size shredded wheat cereal
  • 1 cup walnuts*
  • 1½ cups dried fruit (choose one or more of the following: raisins, cherries, apricots, cranberries, prunes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place the oats, shredded wheat, walnuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped (the fruit should be the size of a dried pea or lentil).
  3. Whisk together the eggs, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add the oat mixture and chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan, and flatten gently with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula.
  5. Bake about 18 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. Let cool completely in pan before slicing into twelve 2 x 2½- inch bars.

TIP: These bars freeze really well, so if you have leftovers, wrap individual portions in plastic baggies or aluminum foil and freeze.

*May substitute sunflower seeds for those with a nut allergy.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 200 calories, 9g fat (1.5g saturated, 0.9g omega-3), 115mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g protein

Recipe courtesy of Meal Makeover Moms in their cookbook No Whine with Dinner.

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