Why Kids Need to Snack & a Bonus Recipe
As the weather gets colder, the urge to snack for both kids and adults heats up. The word "snack" can have a negative connotation for lots of us. The advertising industry would like for us to equate "snack" with candy, snack cakes (yeah, they put the word "snack" right in the description -- how's that for brainwashing), chips and other sugar and salt laden "foods." I'm not a big sweets eater, but give me a bag of chips, and I can eat the whole thing. Let's look at snacking from a different perspective, and it can be a thing of beauty rather than an ugly unhealthy weight to bear (pun intended).
First, kids need snacks. Little kids especially need snacks because, often, they can't eat enough at a meal to get all the nutrition they need, much less keep them going all day. So, if snacks are fuel for the body, we just need to think of them as part of the entire day's meal plan. Stop thinking of snacks as that little extra "bad" thing and, instead think of snacks as a good, healthy thing. Think of them as mini-meals. While it may seem like child abuse to some, I used to give my son steamed broccoli for a snack because he loved it.
Once, when my son was a toddler, I went to a presentation by a child development expert about discipline and other issues. One of the moms raised her hand and said that her toddler daughter wouldn't eat anything expect McDonald's chicken nuggets and Poptarts. I wanted to ask her if her 3-year-old was driving herself to McDonald's and then doing the grocery shopping for the family. The child development expert essentially said the same thing, only in a nicer way. The mom gets to decide what she buys the child to eat. Children won't starve themselves.
We parents all get a little hung up on food, don't we? Food has so many emotional ties. But parents can make the decision to provide healthy food for their kids. It helps me to think in terms of food groups and to focus on the fact that both kids and adults should be eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. You can provide a good example for your kids by eating the same healthy foods that you expect them to eat. (You can always go to the chocolate stash after the kids go to bed).
Here a few snack ideas. My kids loved English muffin pizzas and would make them for themselves after school as they got older. It's half an English Muffin (or bagel) with a little bottled marinara sauce or tomato sauce (sprinkle on a little oregano and basil, if you want) and some lowfat mozzerella cheese. Add thinly sliced red or green pepper, sliced olives or mushrooms for even more veggie power. Put it in the microwave, toaster oven or oven until the cheese melts a little.
Or get a slice of lowfat turkey or ham, spread some lowfat cream cheese or hummus over it and roll it up. You can add salsa, shredded carrots, avocado or other vegetables inside, depending on your child's taste. Cut the "tube" into sushi-type rolls and serve on a child-friendly plate to make it even more appealing. As your kids get older, they will start making this treat themselves.
Think bite-size with kids. Try celery with peanut butter spread inside. Top that with some raisins or even blueberries. Cut up chunks of fruit and use lowfat yogurt for a dip. Lowfat yogurt and homemade granola make a great snack. Or cut up some lowfat ham or turkey and lowfat cheese chunks, or cheese and fruit, or whole wheat crackers and hummus, or hard-boiled eggs, or cereal and milk, or peanut butter on apple slices...you get the idea. Once you start thinking in terms of health, the options are endless, and much better for your pocketbook and the environment than pricey, prepackaged sugary, salty snacks.
I just read a study where the researchers found that children prefer food served on colorful plates. You might give that a try as well. How much better would those chunks of fruit and carrot sticks look on a bright green plate?
Here's a cookie recipe that is low in sugar and sneaks in some carrots. A couple of these cookies with a glass of lowfat milk would be a perfect snack after playing outside on a cold day. I tried these out on my youngest daughter Mary (OK, she's 20, but still....) and she loved them. She said they're like "muffin cookies." And for you adults who want to snack healthy, they're not bad with a cup of hot tea in the afternoon.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 cookie sheets with nonstick vegetable spray.
INGREDIENTS: 1/3 cup canola oil, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup molasses, 2 egg whites, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1 cup grated carrots, 1 1/4 cups instant oatmeal, 1/2 cup raisins (optional), 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
Beat together oil, brown sugar, molasses, and egg whites. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, dry milk and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the oil mixture. Add the remaining ingredients to the flour and oil mixture. Mix well. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove cookies and cool. They also freeze well.