It’s that time of year again – summer break is reaching out to hand off the relay baton to a new school year. Snacks tend to be the last thing we purchaseas we prepare, which makes sense as some snacks are more perishable compared to clothes and school supplies. Here’s the bad part though: as parents, most of us are tired of shopping and strung out by the time we reach the ‘snack list’, so we make poor choices based on price and convenience. Here’s the good news: I’ve already made you a list below of healthy, convenient, affordable snacks for those cute little lunch boxes and for around the house! So just sit back, relax and read on!
Listen to me – one parent to another. Childhood obesity is rampant in the United States and gaining momentum. So, is the answer to cut out snacks? No.Kids need snacks. Their little bellies aren’t equipped yet for large gaps between meals.
Soft drinks, cookies, goldfish, graham crackers and sugary juices have been in my house time after time. Here’s a good example: I bought some Oreos as a treat (maybe I shouldn’t have, but anyway). I look around one afternoon to find one of my children suspiciously missing. As I search through the house, I find him tucked behind the pantry door, in the dark, chowing down on those Oreos! He knew he wasn’t supposed to be doing that, but hi
s argument was, ‘I was hungry’. Yes, he probably was hungry. He needed a snack but, as parents, we need to take the unhealthy stuff out of their equation. I shouldn’t have purchased the Oreos in the first place. If they’re in my house, someone’s going to eat them.
Here’s one last thing before we go to our list: involve your children in the process somehow. Studies have shown that if one is involved in a process, i.e. has an emotional attachment, they’re more willing to support that end goal. Example – when you finish cutting your grass, who’s more proud of it? You or your neighbor? Or what if you purchase something compared to when it was just given to you as a gift? You’re likely more prone to use it when you did the purchasing because there’s an emotional attachment. Same thing goes for kids. If it’s simply buying something in the store, have them put it in the cart. If it requires making/cooking something, have them involved somehow. There’s a much greater chance they’ll buy in to a new idea (even if it at first doesn’t taste as good to them as some of the highly processed foods they may prefer).
Here are my 7 best snack tips for home and lunch boxes:
Cheese is a convenient snack. You can buy string cheese or even cubed cheese prepackaged, saving you time and effort. It is a good source of protein, vitamin D and calcium. Kids love it and so does my father-in-law. He’s always said he wants his tombstone to read, ‘Here lies Jim. Died of cheese.’!
2. Trail Mix
There are all kinds out there. You come out a lot cheaper to buy the ingredients and make it yourself (again, involve the kids in this process). Some healthy ingredients include some variation of dried fruits, various nuts, coconut flakes, mini pretzels, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. If you add chocolate, go for a dark chocolate – it’s better for your body.
This is another convenient snack. Don’t load it down with butter and salt or you’ll be defeating the purpose! Popcorn is full of whole grains and fiber. You can also add plain popcorn to trail mixes – kids will eat it (and you will too!). Don’t buy the pre-made stuff. The kind you pop yourself is going to be better for you and flat out taste fresher. Have your kids pop it – involve them in the process.
4. Veggies and Hummus
We love hummus around our house and it’s good for you. Honestly, you can take any veggies, dip themin hummus and it’ll taste good. Here’s my secret, though, to getting your kids to eat veggies: help them cut the veggies in to bitesize pieces and magically they’ll eat them! Here’s why: one – you let them use a knife (yikes!), two – this will involve them emotionally to the new concept, three –the bitesize pieces are much easier for their little mouths to handle.
5. Peanut/Almond/Sunflower/Etc Butter
These nut butters are filled with fiber and protein. Go for ‘natural’. Avoid trans-fats and added sugar. Even though most folks point to peanut butter, some of the other nut butters, like almond butter, seem to have more health benefits and are becoming more mainstream. Use these as you normally would. Try out different kinds and see what works for you and your family.
I tell my kids they can eat as much fruit as they want. Find some fruits they (and you) like and always keep them in stock. Around our house, we eat cherries like we stole them. Even my 6 year old can spit out a cherry pit like a champion spittooner (I just made up that word but you get the idea)!
Like the trail mix, you can get this prepackaged or make it yourself. My wife makes some granola bars that are to die for and completely healthy! Granola itself, with some fresh fruit, is a great addition to some (no sugar added) greek yogurt.
So, there you go. Convenient, affordable, and healthy snacks to start the school year off right. It’s small things like snacks that can have a huge impact on overall health. Get these small things right and the rest will come together.
Dr. Thomas is a board-certified physician who operates Complete Health Integrative Wellness Clinic and Thomas Urology Clinic in Starkville, Mississippi.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is, under no circumstances, intended to constitute medical advice or to create or continue a physician-patient relationship. If you have a medical emergency, you should immediately seek care from your nearest emergency room, and if you have specific health questions, you should consult your own physician.