Children, teachers and parents alike are excited for the learning, challenges and fun in store for the coming school year. Learning is fueled by healthy meals and snacks, but healthy habits can be hard to develop. The SMART snacking tips below help parents teach kids healthy snacking habits. Teaching kids healthy habits at a young age sets them up to successfully care for themselves as adults.
S: Structure. Plan to make snacks a part of the daily routine. Set a specific snack time, plan the foods you will serve at snack and stick to it. When kids know and trust that a snack will be served at roughly the same time every afternoon, they are less likely to snack casually or make impulsive choices to satisfy their hunger.
M: MyPlate. According to MyPlate, fruits and vegetables should make up half your plate at meals, but the same goal applies to snacks as well. Plan snacks that pair fruits or vegetables with foods kids already like. Some ideas include:
String cheese and grapes.
Hummus, baby carrots and whole grain crackers.
Yogurt, sliced banana and granola.
Fruchi real fruit smoothie (frozen section), celery sticks and peanut butter.
A: Attitude. Teach kids that healthy snacks provide the energy and nutrients their bodies need to fuel their growing minds and bodies. Model this attitude for kids by eating a healthy snack, too.
R: Roles. Parents and kids each have important jobs at snack time. Parents decide what, when and where the snack will be. They set up the snack structure and make sure it becomes a routine. Kids choose if they will eat and how much they will eat. Keeping these roles allows kids to try new foods, enjoy favorite foods and provides the energy and nutrients their bodies need.
T: Try It. Encourage kids to try new foods by serving new foods at snack occasionally. Pair new foods with foods that are kid favorites and be patient. You may have to serve a new food a few times before kids will even try it, but persistence will pay off. The more times kids are around a new food, the more likely they are to eventually try it and like it. You may be surprised at what your pickiest eater will taste and learn to enjoy eating.
Information provided by Megan Conlon RD, LD, Mason City Hy-Vee West dietitian, 2400 Fourth St. S.W., 641-424-2605.