We baby boomers and older adults can lead busy lives. Some folks even take care of school-aged grandchildren while parents are working. If you have this duty, you’re probably also providing food for the kids. And figuring out healthy snacks can be a challenge.
Let’s Be Clear About This
The one thing you don’t want to do is to get into a struggle with kids about their eating habits. It’s not productive and not your responsibility. Here’s an easy piece of advice to keep in mind:
As the responsible adult, you control two things, and two things only:
- What foods are available
- When they’re available
That’s it. Children decide whether or not they’ll eat a food and how much.
Benefits of Healthy Snacks
1) Snacks can help fill holes in children’s diets. For example, if kids don’t eat a lot of fruits and vegetables at mealtimes, in-between meals is a great time to have them available. The same with whole grain foods such a whole-wheat crackers.
2) Snacks can help keep energy levels up. Kids are usually hungry when they get home from school. They may feel tired or sluggish—not a good prerequisite for wanting to sit down to start homework. Snacks with complex carbohydrates and protein will give sustained energy over a number of hours.
Here are some suggestions for healthy snacks (tip: you can keep these around for you, also!). Many are available in individually-packaged servings, easy to keep around and portable if need be. Keep lots of fresh fruit and vegetables on hand where kids will see them, and in ready-to-eat portions. For example, rinse grapes and cut them into small bunches of about 1/4 – 1/2 cup; place them on a shelf at eye-level in the refrigerator. If kids have to dig through bottom drawers for grapes and then rinse them…well, it just won’t happen.
- Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and any other fruit in season
- String cheese, cheese sticks or cubes
- Sliced apples (with peanut butter)
- Baby carrots or celery sticks (with ranch dressing)
- Yogurt (watch the sugar content)
- Parfait with plain yogurt, berries, and healthy whole-grain, low-sugar cereal
- Applesauce (unsweetened version is available)
- Canned fruit packed in juice
- Dried fruits (raisins)
- Hummus with whole grain crackers or veggies
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Smoothie (whey or plant-based protein powder with their favorite fruit/vegetable)
- Healthy bars*
Also known as meal replacement or snack bars, protein bars make an excellent, convenient between-meals food.
A plethora of protein bars are on the market. When searching for one to use as a snack, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Look for ingredients containing “real” foods such as nuts and dried fruits
- 150-200 calories per serving
- 6-10 grams of protein
- 3-5 grams of dietary fiber
- Less than 3 grams of saturated fat
- Less than 10 grams of sugar (and watch for sugar alcohols such as maltitol, xylitol, or sorbitol, which can lead to bloating and diarrhea)
So keep your kitchen stocked with healthy snacks for your grandchildren, remember the only two things you’re in control of, and let the kids feast! (Enjoy a nutritious snack with them!)