(Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is written by Shatonia Chatman, an extension agent in charge of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program in Calcasieu Parish.)
Summertime can be busy with fun at the pool, vacation, and kids out of school and ready to enjoy the summer freedom. With all of this activity, snack time becomes an important part of the day to rehydrate and refuel. For those of us always on-the-go, it may be hard to plan and prepare healthy snacks for our families. Snacking habits have been identified as a major contributor to obesity, especially in our children. With nearly two-thirds of Americans overweight and at risk for obesity, it is vital that we consume healthy and nutrient-dense snacks. Snacking healthy in summer is challenging because we are all busy, traveling, and have a tendency to snack more often. Here are some cool, healthy and creative snack ideas to ensure that you and your family are snacking healthy this summer.
Tips for Healthy Snacking
Make it fun for your kids. Make snack preparation a fun hands-on project that will keep your kids entertained. Use the foods to make objects (fruit faces, bugs, animals or just anything “mini”) or make something that lets them get their hands dirty.
Convenience is the key. During the summer you are always on-the-go so make snacks easily available. Keep a bowl full of fruit on your counter or make trail mix and put it in individual bags. Also, keeping a healthy snack with you at all times will help prevent those spur-of-the-moment unhealthy snacks.
Keep hydrated. Thirst can often be confused with hunger leading to excess food intake. Keep cold water bottles in the refrigerator, keep a pitcher of fruit juice, tea or lemonade made at all times, and try to limit soft drink consumption! Also, fruit is an excellent snack that also hydrates. Try to include fruit in at least one snack each day.
During the summertime, instead of picking up a snack at the local corner store that might be too high in fat and sodium, offer lots of fresh vegetables and fruits as snacks while they are abundantly available. They are low in fat and sodium and help you stay hydrated. They also make you feel full. Think about using watermelon for snacks. It provides plenty of hydration during the hot summer months. Chilled citrus fruits provide a lot of vitamin C. They have an abundance of fluids for hydration and fiber for feeling full. Vegetables can be eaten fresh, dried or baked for salty and delicious snacks.
Many times snacks are used as mini meals when normal mealtimes are delayed because of activities. In that case, make sure the food contains some lean protein such as chicken or fish. Include a variety of vegetables that provide vitamins and minerals, such as carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, broccoli florets and other colorful vegetables. And include some carbohydrates. Good carbohydrate sources would be whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pretzels, homemade baked potato chips or sweet potato chips. Top it off with fruit, and you have a healthy mini meal.
Don’t forget to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.