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Tasty and healthy

Nutritious snacks benefit growing kids

Nutritious snacks benefit growing kids

January 21, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Snacking between meals can be a good thing -- if the snacks are packed with nutrients. So forget the potato chips with artery-clogging dip, the candy bars and carbonated sodas. Satisfy your appetite instead with a fruit smoothie, peanut butter-coated celery stalk or handful of juicy grapes.

It's especially important for children ages 2 to 5 to fill their small stomachs with a little meal or snack every 1 1/2 to two hours, and for kids to see their parents eating healthy snacks, according to information from Lynn F. Little, family and consumer sciences educator for the Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

Nutritious snacks also are a good way for kids to get more calcium and the recommended five fruits and vegetables per day. Little's healthy snack source, Food & Health Communications at www.foodandhealth.com on the Web, suggests such good-for-you snacks as low-sodium, low-fat vegetable or bean soup, vegetable juice, whole-wheat pita stuffed with lean turkey or beans, lettuce and tomato, oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon, nonfat yogurt with fruit and whole-grain cereal and peanut butter crackers. Just remember to limit the peanut butter to 1 tablespoon per serving to keep the fat in check.

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Kids tend to like crunchy foods, so give them raw fruits and vegetables with a small side serving of low-fat dip, including yogurt. Raw foods also have more nutrients than cooked foods. Keep cut-up celery and carrot sticks in a clear container in the refrigerator so kids know the healthy snacks are available at any time, suggests the Federal Citizen Information Center at www.pueblo.gsa.gov on the Web. The center also gives the following tips for healthy snacking:

  • Spread peanut butter on apple slices.

  • Serve a 100-percent frozen juice bar.

  • Top frozen yogurt with berries or slices of kiwi fruit.

  • Snack on dried fruit.

  • Keep a bag of prepared salad mix handy, and let kids add fruits and vegetables to the prepackaged greens.

  • Make fruit smoothies by blending low-fat milk or yogurt with such fresh or frozen fruit as strawberries, bananas and peaches.



In addition to a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, the National Institutes for Health at www.nih.gov on the Web recommends such healthy snacks as canned fruits in natural juices, unsweetened cereals with skim or low-fat milk, unbuttered popcorn, baked tortilla chips with low-fat refried beans, low-salt pretzels, plain crackers, low-fat or nonfat cheeses and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

The NIH advises parents to read labels in search of sugar, which can be found in pizza and breads as well as candy and other traditionally sugary foods. Like refined sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses and syrups also react with bacteria to produce the acids that can damage teeth. Even the natural sugar in some fresh fruits, if eaten in excess, can promote tooth decay, according to the NIH.

The average American 17-year-old has more than three decayed teeth due to excess sugar consumption, according to information on the health organization's Web site.

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