By Adrian Kohrt
As summer begins, our frantic lives become even busier. When your children get hungry, it is very easy to give them quick and easy snacks such as store-bought popsicles, candy, cookies and soda. The problem with these types of snacks is that they provide “empty calories,” which have no nutritional value.
According to the MyPlate nutrition guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children should be eating a vegetable, fruit, whole grain and lean protein with each meal, and a small amount of dairy. We can assist them in achieving these goals with the snacks that we provide.
Healthy snacks that contain fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy are the best option for summer snacks for children. Below are some suggestions for healthy summer snacks that children will enjoy. Some of these items are very easy to prepare and some take a little planning, but they are all very easy to make.
• Frozen grapes — Individually freeze grapes in a bowl.
• Ranch dressing and vegetables
• Frozen yogurt, fruit and 100 percent fruit juice — Blend together and place in separate containers, then freeze.
• Cheese and 100 percent whole grain crackers
• String cheese
• Fruit kabobs — Slice up different types of fruit and place them on a skewer. These can be frozen.
• Ants on a log — Spread peanut butter into celery sticks and add several raisins on top.
• Fruit and yogurt dip — Use your favorite yogurt as a fruit dip.
• Watermelon popsicles — Cut watermelon into triangles and insert popsicles sticks into the rind to form the popsicle handle.
• Apple nachos — Slice apples and place them on a plate. Slightly warm up peanut butter and drizzle over the apples. Add a little bit of chocolate syrup for some extra pizzazz. To keep your apples from turning brown, let them soak in water with a little bit of lemon or lime juice for a while before serving. Make sure to pat dry.
• Make a rainbow of vegetables on a plate. Serve with a dip of your child’s choice.
• Banana “ice cream” smoothies — Freeze bananas in chunks. Once frozen, place chunks in a blender with some milk and your favorite fruit and blend. The consistency turns into ice cream. You can even add some peanut butter for variety.
• Homemade granola bars
• Oatmeal cookies
• Pizza kabobs — Pepperoni, cheese and pita bread cut up into small squares, placed on a skewer in an alternating pattern. They can be dipped in marinara sauce.
• Apple “doughnuts” — Core apples and slice them into doughnut slices. Top with peanut butter, raisins, a small amount of chocolate chips and some nuts.
• Hummus and vegetables
• Frozen peanut butter banana popsicle — Place banana on a popsicle stick, lightly cover with peanut butter and freeze.
• Trail mix — Mix some of your favorite ingredients to form a trail mix. You can include unsweetened coconut, nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, oats and a wide variety of other treats. Use your imagination and get your children involved in creating it.
• Tortilla chips and bean dip
• Apples and cheese
Here are some tips for helping your children choose nutritious snacks. Let children help you plan what snacks they are going to eat. Have snacks readily available for them, such as having a designated spot in the refrigerator or on the counter, where children can locate their snacks. It is summer time! Get your children interested in the vegetables you grow or take them to the farmers market and let them pick out vegetables that are locally grown.
The Cooperative Extension Service has a free publication titled “Choosing Healthy Snacks for Children.” You can download this at http://bit.ly/2xKzKnh and it will provide you with even more ideas for snack ideas.
Summer is a great time to be a kid! We want our children to grow up healthy and strong. By providing healthy snacks, instead of sugar-laden junk food, we will contribute to the growth of strong bones, strong bodies and healthy minds. Having a plan in place will assist you in overcoming the urge to buy sweet and prepackaged food
Adrian Kohrt is a family nutrition coordinator for Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907)474-7930.