Meal and snack times provide a time to encourage healthy habits and conversation. When wise snacking is added to three nutritious meals a day, adults can achieve the total recommended daily guidelines for healthy American children. Otherwise, the guidelines can be very difficult.
For more ways to help children be healthy, successful, and love a lifetime of learning see the authors’ book “Learning Through the Seasons” at museums, bookstores, online at grandparentsteachtoo.org, E-Books at Smashwords.com, and pod casts at wnmufm.org.
More than 27 percent of American children’s daily calories come from snacking. This snacking doesn’t have to be bad. It could be something you had planned to offer at mealtime anyway as part of the five basic groups on a plate: about half fruits and vegetables, half grains and protein, and a glass milk or yogurt.
This plan of including tasty fruit and vegetable snacks is especially useful if fruits and vegetables are often left on the plate or a big point of contention at mealtime.
A snack that satisfies hunger might be cut up fruits and vegetables like oranges, bananas, pears, apples, thin shavings of carrots, or frozen peas with just a small amount of cereal or crackers. Add a little cheese, yogurt, or small piece of turkey. You may want to replace crackers with whole grain bread pieces, pockets or wraps and a little peanut butter (check with your physician). Recommendations are five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables. Three meals plus three nutritious snacks (including one at bedtime) equals meeting the nutritional guidelines.
Offer more water
Another suggestion is to provide water or milk during mealtimes and snacks rather than juice or soda. Drinking water rather than soda is cheaper; it is caffeine and sweetener free and will become a habit.
To set a good example, eat a small snack and drink water or skim milk with your children. Have your snack at the kitchen table rather in front of the TV, phone, or computer.
You may like to play a game like I Spy Something Red or some other color to spark conversation. Another variation is to count the number of items of a color you can find in a room.
Alphabet and category games are also conversation starters. How many words can you think of that start with the letter B? What animals can you think of that live on a farm?
You can teach young children to read numbers on nutrition labels. Four year olds can look for smaller number of sugar grams and become very aware of what they eat. These little food detectives can compare labels on boxed cereals, soup, processed meats, frozen meals, and macaroni and cheese to find the lowest amounts of sweeteners especially.
Esther Macalady is a former teacher, who lives in Golden, and participates in the Grandparents Teach Too writing group.