It is 3 p.m., your children just got off the school bus, and they are "starving."
In some ways, this is the perfect time for a snack, since a hungry kid is not generally as picky. However, it's almost dinner time, and you would like your child to eat the nutritious meal you have prepared. If the snack you're providing is just as healthy as the meal you're serving, it is not as big a deal if your child eats less at dinner.
When choosing snacks for children, think about food groups: vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains, meat and beans. Snacks that do not fit into a food group should be limited. A potato chip, for example, is a long, lost relative of the vegetable group; with the amount of processing it has undergone, a chip should not be counted as a vegetable. Any foods that have a lot of added fat, sugar and salt should not be everyday snacks.
Enough of what not to eat; most things are OK in moderation. When choosing snacks, consider the items your children like and the food groups you think they may be lacking. Often children — and many Americans — do not eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, so a snack that includes them is often a good start.
VEGGIES ON THE GO
Serving cut-up vegetables with dip can be easy and appealing for children.
For a quick, healthy snack, rinse and cut up your child's favorite vegetables and keep them readily available. I know that if I cut up carrot sticks for the week, we eat many more carrots than if I have to rinse, peel and chop at every snacking opportunity.
Try some healthy dips, such as hummus, refried beans mixed with a little salsa (great on bell peppers) or fat-free plain yogurt mixed with your child's favorite dressing.