If you have kids home from school for summer break, you probably feel like there is a black hole in your fridge and pantry. Kids are hungry in the summer from all that swimming and running around enjoying their new found freedom from class. Many of us mistake boredom for hunger so having healthy snacks at the ready will help kids from overdoing it on the sugar and junk food. While it may be more convenient, prepackaged snacks from the store are not always the healthy option. With a little preparation, you can stock your kitchen with healthy and nutritious snacks for your kids to get them through to dinner time and to stop the constant, “Mom, I’m Hungry.” Good snacks include:
•Mixed Nuts: Pre-portioned and high in fiber and protein, these make a great snack. Beware of versions high in sugar though. You can even make your own with your kids by mixing nuts, raisins and a few chocolate or butterscotch chips. •Hard Boiled Eggs: Boil up a dozen eggs and have them ready to grab for your hungry kiddo. You can get eggs pre-boiled, peeled and packed from the store. •Cheese sticks: This is another great snack when you need something that’s pre-portioned and ready to eat. If your kids are a little adventurous, try a Colby Jack version. •Fruit: If you have a few moments to prep the fruit for your kids, try making fruit kabobs or add toothpicks to the pieces to make them like little appetizers. •Hummus and Veggies: There are many flavors of hummus, and if you slice up your veggies into small dipping sticks the kids will love it. Try mixing in some pretzel sticks for more variety. There are a lot of snacks that want you to believe they are healthy but they are loaded with sugar, preservatives and other artificial ingredients. Snacks to avoid:
•Fruit Snacks: As an occasional treat these won’t cause a huge sugar rush, but if they are a daily staple, one small pack will be adding 12 grams of sugar to their day. That’s three teaspoons of added sugar. Yikes.
•100 calorie packs: These might rank as the worst snack. The idea of smaller portions is excellent, however, the amount of sugar in these packets is terrifying. Avoid these by making your own portion-controlled bags at home with healthy snacks. •Sports (Protein) Bars: Most bars are marketed as fuel for busy, active people. Beware of the health trap these bars are setting as many have as much sugar as a candy bar.
•Pop and Juice: When possible, stick with water. One 8-ounce serving of Orange Juice contains about six teaspoons of sugar, a can of soda is nearly 10 teaspoons. That’s more sugar than you want in your entire day in just one small can of pop. Invite your kids to help you shop for healthy snacks that will keep them full and satisfied this summer. If you get the kids involved with reading labels, they can be active participants in their health and nutrition, and it will set them up for healthy lifelong habits.
Emily Countryman is a board-certified health coach and owner of Ideal Wellness www.idealwellnesswa.com. She writes a monthly health column for this newspaper.