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Healthy You

Small Changes in Snacks Make for Big Changes in Kids' Health

Friday, April 19, 2013 2:31 PM

Over the last 30 years, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the United States, with nearly 1 in 3 children considered overweight or obese. Left unchecked, childhood obesity can lead to serious health issues in children, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and sleep apnea.

The good news is that small changes in snacks, like swapping those high in fat, sodium and calories for healthier, more filling options, can make a big impact. Felissa Kreindler, MD, pediatrician at NorthShore, shares some healthy snack options that won’t send the kids running … unless, that is, they always follow a healthy snack with some equally healthy exercise.

  • Vegetables. Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C and also fiber, which both help kids feel fuller faster and longer. Make veggies more palatable to the younger set with a high-protein dip like hummus. Or, give them the ranch dressing they want but without the fat by serving a low fat yogurt-based version [recipe provided].
  • Cheese. It might be a surprise to see cheese on a list of healthy, kid-friendly snacks.  Yet in moderation, cheese is a great way to fill kids up and keep them from snacking later in the day. High in calories, yes, but cheese is also high in protein and calcium. When paired with vegetables and fruit, it can round out a well-balanced snack.
  • Fruit. It’s an obvious choice but not all fruits are created equal. Consider fruit high in fiber, like apples, avocado, bananas and berries. Dried figs, apricots and dates are a sweet replacement for the empty calories in candy. Transform avocados into guacamole and replace high-fat tortilla chips with whole grain crackers.
  • Peanut, sunflower, and almond butters and nuts. Great with fruit or on whole grain crackers, these nut butters are high in protein and heart-healthy fat. You can get the same benefits from whole nuts as well. When it comes to nut butters and nuts, stick with the natural options that limit added oils and sugar.

 What healthy snacks do your kids love?

Try this low fat, kid-friendly recipe for ranch dressing:

8 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup nonfat yogurt
1 cup fat-free sour cream