School’s just about for summer, meaning your kids are home and you have a chance to hit the reset button on unhealthy eating habits they may have picked up during the school year. Registered dietitian Deirdre Pizzoferrato, founder of Connecticut-based child nutrition company Beanstalk Express, says now is the time to engage your kids in healthy “snack-tivities” and make way for them to learn to love nutritious foods. With one-third of the American children considered overweight or obese, changing your children’s snack habits is one easy step in reducing their risk of weight gain. Even if your family is following a vegan diet, making snack time fun for the kids will make vegan eating more enjoyable. Here are five of Pizzoferrato’s healthy summer snacking tips for kids.
5 Tips for healthy summer snacking for kids
1. Have some tasty freezer fun
Dairy-based ice cream may be out of the question on a vegan diet, but vegan ice cream alternatives may also be high in fat and calories. Instead of store-bought frozen treats, Pizzoferrato, who specializes in child and adolescent weight management, recommends engaging your kids in a super fun “snack-tivity” with freezer fruit pops! “Use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes from a 1-inch-thick slice of seedless watermelon, insert a popsicle stick into the bottom and place on tin foil and pop it in the freezer!” Frozen grapes or berries are also a welcome summer treat.
2. Take advantage of whole grain pastas
The wide variety of pasta shapes gives this whole grain food hungry kid appeal. “A cup of whole grain pasta salad can be a nutritious and easy snack, and with a little creativity – it can be lots of fun,” says Pizzoferrato. “Have a batch of cooked pasta on hand, and let your kids make their own [pasta snacks] with fresh veggies, cheeses, fruit and nuts. This a win-win snack.”
3. Stock up on fresh fruit
Summer is the most bountiful time of the year when it comes to nutrient-dense fruits, such as peaches, berries and melons. “Looking for something fun to do outdoors with your kids? Take them berry picking,” Pizzoferrato suggests. “Aside from the fun, picking (and freezing) your own berries is a cost effective way to stock up on great nutrition.”
4. Stay healthy and hydrated
Those cute juice boxes may be your kiddo’s favorite drink, but they are often contain little real juice and are loaded with sugar. Pizzoferrato warns, “It’s important to keep our children hydrated during the hot summer months, but too many sweetened beverages not only fail to properly hydrate our kids, but add a lot of empty calories that [can put them at risk for weight gain].” The registered dietician recommends limiting sweet drinks to six to eight ounces a day. The best source of hydration is water — put it in a fun reusuable bottle that sports a kid-friendly design and add a squeeze of orange or lemon to give water a little flavor.
5. Keep a snacking schedule
How often do your kids rummage through the kitchen for food because they are bored? “Unless you’re Mary Poppins, keeping our kids entertained 24/7 is impossible,” empathizes Pizzoferrato. “And while it’s tempting to give in to frequent requests for snacks and treats, eating to cure boredom is habit-forming!” She suggests setting a daily snack schedule which will provide structure and organization while teaching your kids healthy eating habits, such as moderation and self-control.
If you need more help in improving your children’s snacking habits, Pizzoferrato’s company Beanstalk Express recently introduced the SnackTime Survival Kit, the world’s first snack-tivity game. A fun and interactive way to teach kids healthy eating habits, the SnackTime Survival Kit is available at www.beanstalkexpress.com.