Make Snack Time Fun for Kids

This is what your child eats right now!

Kids nowadays are driven towards a very unhealthy lifestyle:

  • By the media – TV commercials between cartoon breaks that advertise unnatural fatty, sugary or salty snacks, devoid of nutritional value;
  • By their environment – other kids that eat unhealthy snacks at school;
  • By parents who due to their busy schedules don’t give too much importance to their children’s snacking habits.

If these unhealthy eating habits aren’t broken at a young age they may have as an effect the deterioration of your child’s health.

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First of all let us look at what those easy-to-grab snacks on TV really contain and what effect they have on your kid’s health.

Some of the unhealthiest ingredients found in food are:

  • artificial colors – cause hyperactivity and headaches;
  • bleached white flour – found in white bread (stripped of nutrients and fiber adds little value to our diets);
  • high-fructose corn syrup – found in most processed foods ( no nutritional value, linked to increase risk of type 2 diabetes and damage the liver);
  • artificial sweeteners – they are chemically derived and have been linked to migraines and cancer;
  • BHT ( Butylated Hydroxytoluene) – added to most processed foods to preserve fats, overconsumption causes allergic reactions on the skin;
  • partially hydrogenated oil – often found in cake mixes, peanut butter and baked goods, it is linked to heart disease and decreasing good cholesterol levels, it is also very hard for the body to dissolve;
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) – is a food additive found in many foods, especially in fast food restaurants. It is believed to overexcite the nerve cells in the brain and eaten in large amounts can cause brain cell death, it also leads to exhaustion after a big meal.
  • Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite – they are chemical compounds found in bacon and hot dogs, which affect the way your body uses sugar and may increase the risk of diabetes and colorectal cancer.
  • Sodium benzoate – is a chemical preservative used to prevent the growth of bacteria in foods like jams, fruit pies and soft drinks, it deprives our cells of oxygen and weakens the immune system.
  • Sulphites – are food additives used to preserve food color and prolong shelf life in food products including canned fruits, frozen fries and soy products, they can cause allergic reactions, swelling of the eyes, face and tongue.

So in conclusion, the ingredients found in fast food and shop snacks not only cause obesity, but they also prevent our children from developing mentally, take away their energy and capacity to concentrate, may cause allergies, headaches and diseases such as cancer and diabetes, they are hard to eliminate from the body, in short they have no benefits.

Why would we want to harm our children? Why not provide them with healthy delicious snack alternatives. But how can we break these habits? Well read on.

 

a funny and healthy snack prepared from fruits

How do we persuade our children to eat healthy?

The first thing that should be noted when it comes to a child’s eating habits is what he learns at home, if your family meals aren’t shared together as a family, or if your child sees you (parents, siblings) snacking on chips and cookies he will most likely do the same.

These are habits that may as well stay with him for life and may increase the risk of obesity and all sorts of unhealthy eating related diseases or disorders.

We have already talked about all the benefits of healthy eating and healthy snacking, as well as about harmful unhealthy foods, now let’s look at some ways in which you can break your child’s bad eating habits and make healthy foods more attractive to them.

You should know that even by making a few changes at snack time, like presenting your child with a glass of cold milk instead of juice or energy drink, can go a long way toward helping him get a healthy start in life.

You should also try to substitute their potato chips with crunchy carrot sticks or pretzels, and cookies with fruit slices.

It is very important to have the fresh fruit and raw vegetables you intend to give to your kid, already washed and cut up (preferably into fun shapes) for them to quickly grab out of the fridge whenever they need a quick snack. Also, peanut butter spread on crackers or small pieces of cheese are great sources of protein for children.

Some of the most popular and fun healthy snack ideas are:

  • Fruit and vegetables shish kebabs – stack slices of fruit or raw vegetables on a toothpick or a pretzel. You can also add slices of cheese for calcium.
  • “Ants on a log” – spread peanut butter on pieces of celery then add a few raisins or small pieces of dry fruit (ants)
  • Fun shapes – try cutting your kid’s sandwiches into cool shapes with cookie cutters; this doesn’t only work on sandwiches but also on any healthy ingredients you want to serve to your child.
  • Fruit lollipops – try dipping a banana in yogurt and freeze for a delicious frozen treat.

You can get creative with any of these ideas and change the ingredients to your child’s preferences.

Another very important thing to keep in mind, except setting a healthy lifestyle example for your child, is to involve them in “The Snack Project”.

  • Take them shopping with you and let them help you choose their favorite ingredients for their snacks and tell them constantly how strong, smart and energetic they will be if they eat all their fruit and veggies.
  • When you get home let them help you prepare the snacks, cut into fun shapes they enjoy, lay out the ingredients, decorate, etc.
  • Present food as a game. Children love to play make believe, so invent a story behind the food. For instance, let him imagine he is a dinosaur who needs to eat five miniature trees (broccoli) to outrun a T-rex. 
  • Relating food to fun things the child already enjoys and turning snack time into a game is a great way to make him eat something he wouldn’t usually eat.
  • Give them examples of their favorite cartoon or movie characters who have become so cool and powerful because they eat healthy.
  • Try to have an impact on the community as well and talk to other parents about the benefits of healthy snacking, refer them to this website and others you have found on the internet to get support and get healthy snack ideas for their kids as well.
  • Reward your children for their healthy eating habits by praising them or with stickers, don’t force them or bribe with sweets, instead provide opportunities to try a variety of fruit and vegetables.
  • Remember to eat the new food as well. Children love to imitate.
  • Make sure you keep a calm attitude, be patient and introduce foods slowly into your child’s diet by giving them time to adjust to the new food.
  • Try to pick foods that appeal to your child’s taste buds, don’t just buy them for their health benefits and nutritional value.
  • Offer a “rainbow plate” to your kid. Children like colorful foods, use this to your and their advantage.
  • Design food into patterns on your child’s plate; if you shape food into a heart or a smiley face it will appeal to them more than if the food is clumped in the center of the plate.
  • Keep at it, because some children are more difficult to persuade than others and will require more effort and patience. Remember that habits that are formed at a young age tend to stick with them long into adulthood.
  • Continue to set a good example, create positive and fun experiences around food, and keep exposing them, in a pleasant way, to foods they reject. Sooner or later it will pay off.

Having all these in mind you can start improving your children’s snacking diet today. By adopting a healthy lifestyle for your family you will ensure your child’s proper development both physically and mentally and also make sure their nutritional needs are met.

However, for a truly balanced, healthy lifestyle you must also provide your kid opportunities to exercise.

By introducing healthy snacks into your kid’s nutrition he will benefit from all the advantages that healthy food provides: vitamins and minerals, calcium for bone development, more energy, better results in school and an increased capacity to focus due to proper brain development and functioning.

If you are convinced of all these benefits but don’t know how and what to start with, here are some healthy snack recipes that will help you.

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