Want your kids to snack on healthy foods? Well, you could forbid them from wandering a grocery store, cut the cord on the television and lock down the internet, thereby eliminating all the tantalizing treats that look great but fall flat when it comes to providing an energy boost.
Wait a minute... We see that eye roll! Want a more manageable approach? Then try making these healthy snacks, then make sure they’re the only yummy things in the house. When desperate pangs of snacking hunger strike, you’ll be the hero with tasty treats that will keep energy and brain power on high!
Shelley Hill is a popular pinner parent on Pinterest with two children, ages 12 and 10. Her "healthy snacks board" is brimming with ideas, but she says her biggest surprise was discovering how much her kids love kale chips. "They taste like potato chips and my kids ate them up," she says.
If your kids are craving something sweet, Shelley swears by Skinny Monkey Cookies, which substitute apple sauce for sugar and deliver a sweetness kick without the calories (each cookie is only 47 calories!). The recipe comes from Onceamonthmom.com.
Shelley's advice for helping kids choose healthy over horridly processed? "Keep healthy foods in the house at all times and stop buying the processed, chemical-filled junk that's making us all sick," she proclaims. "If it's in the house, kids will eat it! Mine will blow through a bag of Oreos in one day (actually about two hours) if it's here. It's hard for them to choose healthy, so why not make it easier for them and just keep healthy food in stock?"
Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, is a columnist for Chicago Parent and a contributing editor of Environmental Nutrition. After we racked up a menu of yummy and healthy snacks for kids (via Pinterest, of course!), we asked Palumbo for some teen-tailored recommendations. After all, if parents have a tough time getting their teen off the phone, how easy can it be to get them on a healthy diet?
"We hear so much about nutrition for elementary- and middle school-aged children, but teens often get short shrift," Palumbo says. "And when you’re in high school, your grades really count!"
Items as simple as cheese and little bags of nuts can be the perfect snack.
"While string cheese should be refrigerated, it will keep in a backpack, purse or locker for a few hours," Palumbo says.
"A one-ounce serving of nuts, either tree nuts or peanuts, provides about 170 calories consisting mainly of protein and healthy oils," she continues. An easy way to gauge size? Palumbo points out that one ounce fits in a teenaged girl's hand. Also consider snacks such as:
"Even a homemade trail mix placed in a small bag is delicious and easy to pack," Palumbo recommends. "Mix whole grain or mostly whole grain cereal such as Cheerios, Wheat Chex or mini shredded wheat biscuits with nuts (if not allergic) or seeds; pretzel rods; dried fruit such as raisins; and a small amount of candy, if desired, (such as M&Ms)."
"Research on cocoa flavanols points to increased blood flow to the brain and improved cognition," Palumbo says. "The best cocoas are those that boast of their cocoa flavanols content, not a higher cocoa content."
"Research suggests improved blood flow and significant improvements in short-term retention and spatial memory testing for people who drink grape juice." Full disclosure: Palumbo is a member of the Welch’s Health and Nutrition Advisory Panel.
"Numerous human and animal studies suggest significant cognitive improvements such as improved memory."
"The walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA), and the eggs contain docosahexaenoic acid, both of which are omega-3 fatty acids," Palumbo explains. "Both are helpful for growing and developing brains. A hard-boiled egg is easy to pull from the fridge and keeps for several hours if still in the shell."
"While chewing gum does not provide nutrients, including calories, research suggests gum chewing increases blood flow to the brain and improves cognitive performance," Palumbo shares. "I know that when I chew gum, I am able to think better."
Palumbo says everyone should avoid caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks or coffee drinks or even caffeinated chewing gum. More advice? Ditch "mostly empty calorie snack foods such as cheese puffs or pretzels."
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