by Jess Snyder
June is on its way, which means that temperatures are heating up, gardens are bursting to life, and kids are getting out of school for the summer. With the kids at home, inevitably the need to nibble will present itself throughout the day with protests of, “I’m huuungry!” During the school year, these grumblings are resolved with a snack tossed into a backpack before leaving in the mornings. Now without a teacher to call for snack time, you are on call and solely responsible.
More and more parents are aware of the benefits of proper nutrition and are trying to make healthy choices for snacks and meals. Substituting fruit juice for Kool-Aid and simply nixing the ice cream is one thing, but integrating fruits and vegetables into a meal can feel like a battle of wits. Children can be picky eaters, which makes getting them the 1 ½ to 2 cups of vegetables they need feel like Mission Impossible: Home Edition. “Roger that. The kale has landed.” Is it possible to combat staunch refusal to eat anything green?
According to Julie Feldman, a registered dietician, tasty green snacks can be more appealing than you would think. Julie says that one of her clients’ favorite ways to get their nutrients is by ‘eating the rainbow,’ or encouraging kids to select fresh produce from a range of colors. This allows kids to access lots of nutrients available to them in the fruits and veggies. Fruit kabobs are also a popular treat, allowing kids to assemble and disassemble their snack themselves. Smoothies are a great way to keep fruit from going to waste. If strawberries, bananas, blueberries, or other produce looks like it’s on its last day before going bad, toss it in the blender with some low-fat yogurt for a tasty treat. However, fancy assembly is not always required. Just having fruits and vegetables cut up, washed, and accessible could be the solution you need for a snack. “The fruits and vegetables need to be just as accessible as the granola bars and chips,” says Julie.
A great way to dispel summer lulls and provide delicious snacks for your little ones is to set up a garden at your home. It can be as modest as a few tomato plants on the windowsill or rival the 100 Acre Woods. Kids can get their hands dirty and help out watering as the fruit slowly grows and ripens. There is nothing as satisfying as being able to crunch on a cucumber that you tended from seed to salad. Tomatoes are easy to grow and are a great treat.
Apples, pears, and berries are very high in fiber (apples also have tons of pectin), which slows down digestion and absorption, keeping kids full longer. Popcorn is also a great alternative to chips or pretzels since it also is high in fiber—just go easy on the butter.
Just because the kids are going to a water park or to an amusement park doesn’t mean that the vegetables should be left behind. Though it takes a little planning for foods that need to be kept cold, ice packs are a must. Julie recommends pliable ice packs sold at grocery stores, which can be wrapped around individual items if need be.
Though there is some debate about the virtues and necessities of organic food, Julie cites the list of “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables that are highest in pesticide concentration as a guide. Apples, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, bell peppers, celery, potatoes, and spinach make the list. However, non-organic produce can be washed to eliminate most pesticides. Julie cautions that it is far better to buy regular fruit and wash it than to forgo produce altogether because organic doesn’t fit in the budget.
With these tips in your utility belt, your mission of turning veggies and fruit into a daily snack should be much easier, should you choose to accept it. Keep things colorful and interactive, and you will be able to provide better nutrition that keeps the little ones full and happy longer.
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