Are you worried that your child is a junk-food addict? You are not alone. One of the most common complaints among concerned mothers is that their children are hooked on potato chips, buscuits, ice-cream, and soft drink. Excess snacking on unhealthy foods is a contributing factor to the growing number of obese children. The high intake of white sugar from sweets and soft drinks is also leading to increased tooth decay and dental carries. Filling up on junk foods can dampen childrens already small appetites for more nutritious foods, which can result in low levels of some important nutrients.
For children, snacking may be physically necessary. Snacks provide an additional source of calories needed to fuel childrens higher activity level. Children may not be getting their energy requirements from only three meals a day. So, when your son whines for a snack, his body may actually be demanding more calories and nutrients.
Since most children get hungry between meals, it is up to parents to make sure that there are healthy and wholesome snacks available. If your young one does not find an easy and “ready to eat” nutritious food when hunger strikes, then she will reach for the chips, biscuits or lollies.
It is simple and easy to turn snacks into a nourishing boost rather than the popular junk foods that are too high in calories but void of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients that growing bodies and minds need. Australians are notorious for their low fibre intake due to high consumption of processed and refined foods and avoidance of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. Low fibre diets have been linked with a higher risk of colon and other cancers. More nutritious snacks will add beneficial fibre to your childs diet that is essential in preventing constipation and protecting against some cancers, high cholesterol and heart disease later in life.
Start the change by setting a good example yourself. It will be hard to convince your child to change her unhealthy eating habits if she catches you digging into a bag of corn chips while watching your favourite TV show. Simply stop buying junk food like chips, chocolate bars, and soft drinks.
Take advantage of peer pressure. Find out what healthy foods your child’s friends like. Invite them over and serve those nutritious foods. It worked wonders on my son who started eating almonds because he saw his best friend happily munching on them.
Try the following wholesome snack ideas that are good for children and still taste great. Prepare some in advance and store in the fridge or pantry to always have on hand.
- As a substitute for potato chips, chop potatoes into very thin round slices. Grease a large baking tray with two tablespoons olive oil and arrange the potato slices on it without overlapping. Pour two tablespoons olive oil over the potatoes and bake in the oven for about twenty minutes. Children will love these crunchy home made potato chips that are not loaded with possibly carcinogenic re-used fats and chemical additives as the commercially prepared potato chips are.
- An apple, pear, peach, mango, plum, apricots, kiwi or banana, peeled and sliced are colorful rainbows packed with vitamins, anti-oxidants, some minerals, and fibre.
- Orange or mandarin sections are deliciously rich in vitamin C.
- Rockmelon, honeydew, or watermelon cut into bite size chunks.
- A bowl of seedless grapes or strawberries.
- Carrot, cucumber, or celery sticks. Carotenes found in carrots may prevent cancer and improve the health of the heart and respiratory system.
- Broccoli or cauliflower florets contain isoflavones that have been proven to protect against several cancers.
- Fresh corn on the cob.
- Raisins, dates, dried figs, prunes, and dried apricots are as sweet as candy but highly nutritious. Did you know that dried fruits are rich in iron too?
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, cashew, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. They are excellent sources of the B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, essential fatty acids, and protein necessary for mental and physical growth.
- Air popped popcorn not heavily salted and buttered is a healthy high fibre snack that children love.
- Make muffins, pancakes, banana bread, carrot and apple cakes from scratch following your usual recipe but using half part regular and half whole wheat flour. Brown flour will not affect the taste and is rich in B vitamins, zinc, iron, and fibre not present in white flour. Add one tablespoon of oats for a hidden nutritional boost.
- Whole wheat crackers or sandwiches made with whole wheat toast and pitted olives, mozzarella or cheddar cheese, hummus (a dip made from pureed cooked garbanzo beans), yogurt, a hard boiled egg, white meat, water packed tuna, tofu cubes, nut butters, halawi (sesame seed butter), fruit jam, or honey.
- Ice blocks made from fresh fruit juices are a refreshing treat and a non-fat alternative to ice cream which is high in fat, sugar, and chemical additives and preservatives. Allow your child to squeeze oranges with you and pour the fresh orange juice into the ice block cups to freeze. Involving her in this way provides special time for the two of you and may instill in her an appreciation for and more positive attitude towards healthy and home made foods.