As a parent, you’re always thinking about affordable ways to keep your child’s diet healthy and varied. This can be particularly difficult as children become pickier and are introduced to sweet or processed foods. While it can feel like a difficult balance, finding healthy snacks that your kids love doesn’t have to be painful—or expensive.
At TrueCare, health doesn’t just happen in our clinics. To encourage healthy habits at home, we’ve compiled some tips for snacks that are wholesome, inexpensive, and appealing to your child!
Make every bite count! Click here to learn how to fill up your plate with nutritious food.
In-Season Produce Provides Healthy Snacks for Kids
Fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list for healthy snacks, but that doesn’t mean kids always want to eat them! Produce can also be expensive. One way to make fresh food more appealing is to focus on in-season items, as they’ll be more flavorful — and sweeter in the case of fruits. When vegetables and fruits are in season, it may also be easier to find sales or coupons to make them more affordable. For example, in Southern California, citrus is abundant in winter, berries in spring and summer, and green beans in fall.
There are endless things you can do with produce. Smoothies are a great way to let your child participate in a “mix and match” style of preparing food that feels like a sweet treat. Vegetables dipped in hummus or smashed avocado (instead of bottled ranch dressing) helps fill them up with fiber and protein. Fruit added to cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt also adds extra flavor and nutrients.
Need ideas for seasonal foods? See this guide.
Portion in Advance for Healthier To-Go Snacks
Portion control is important for good health and avoiding medical problems, such as obesity and diabetes.
One thing that appeals to children about packaged foods is that they are often individually wrapped and easy to grab. By making healthy snacks just as accessible, you can direct their tastes towards these items and foster a sense of independence by giving them choices. Plus, buying in bulk is usually less expensive.
When purchasing a large tub of nut butter or cottage cheese, for example, separate them into small containers. This gives your child something to grab out of a low shelf on the fridge. Paired with small snack bags of pretzels, fruits, or vegetables, you’re helping your child feel in control of their choices while keeping them healthy.
Trail mix is another great way to do this. Buy nuts, whole-grain pretzels and cereal, and dried fruit in bulk before mixing and dividing into small portions. You may even add a sprinkling of dark chocolate chips to make this more appealing.
Check out the Mayo Clinic’s visual cues for help with portion control.
Freeze Foods to Encourage Healthy Snacking
Frozen foods are often associated with treats, making them appealing to kids. Ice cream and popsicles are childhood staples, after all. A simple purchase of a popsicle mold can make both a fun activity and a healthy snack. Fill these molds with natural juices, yogurt, or smoothie mixes to create popsicles.
Freezing whole fruit can make a snack seem fun, new and different, and can be refreshing on hot days!
Whole Grains Help Balance Your Kid’s Diet
Children need a balanced diet. While they do not need to avoid all carbs as a part of a healthy lifestyle, try switching over some of their white carb-based snacks they like to whole-grain versions of these foods. A whole-grain waffle can be topped with fruit, low-fat yogurt, or some natural maple syrup for a healthier version of a favorite breakfast. Sandwiches can be made with whole-grain bread and then cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters, or a whole-grain pita can be stuffed with ricotta cheese and apple slices. Even pizza can be made with whole-grain English muffins as a base!
Recipe Alert! This quick and easy one-pan dish is TrueCare Dietitian approved. For added nutrition, substitute whole-grain pasta: One Pot Chicken Sausage and Zucchini Pasta
Infusing More Water is Simple and Rewarding
Some of the biggest culprits in an unhealthy diet are drinks. Even juice can contain a lot of sugar, but plain water may not be appealing to children. Create your own healthy drinks by infusing water with combinations of fruit and herbs – watermelon and mint, berries and rosemary, cucumber and melon, or citrus (like lemons, limes, oranges) are all popular. Kids can even help choose what goes into their water to make them excited to drink it.
Healthy Eating Environments Promote Good Habits
Healthy eating goes beyond the food you serve and includes things like how and where you eat. We’re all used to snacking mindlessly as we watch TV or scroll the internet, but this isn’t the best habit to form for children. Try to eat snacks and meals in a designated space with no screens wherever possible, being deliberate about your eating habits so kids associate food with mealtime and not playtime.
Include Children in Shopping and Cooking
Even very young children can be involved in the behind-the-scenes process of their food choices. By taking your child to the store, they can help make decisions about what to get when offered choices. You may ask, “Would you rather have strawberries or raspberries?” to ensure their choices are healthy, while still letting them feel like they chose their own snacks.
Having them perform simple tasks in the kitchen is also helpful for their diet and development. A child who feels involved in making a dinner will be more likely to eat the final product.
TrueCare offers several programs and medical services to make sure your child’s life journey gets a healthy start. Our services include:
- Pediatric care – keep your child on track with regular check ups.
- Women, Infant and Children program (WIC San Diego) – provides supplemental food and nutrition education for eligible low-income families.
- Food Distribution and Agricultural Health Program – free food distribution events several times per month
TrueCare is here to ensure your child’s health and wellness is covered from head to toe. Make an appointment today with a TrueCare pediatrician for your child’s next well visit or for sick care.
TrueCare serves communities in several locations across North County San Diego as well as a Perris. Our doctors have the experience, expertise, and dedication to help your kids achieve health and wellness.
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