Healthful snacks necessary for children

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/11/2008 12:34:12 AM

Back-to-School News Distributed 07/11/08

Snacks should be an important part of a child’s daily food intake. Because children are growing and active, they may need to eat more than three times a day, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

“Snacks help furnish the necessary food children need and offer a wonderful chance to give children new and different foods,” Reames said.

“Don't let your child's after-school snack attack catch you off guard,” the nutritionist added. She advises keeping plenty of healthy food choices on hand from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid five food groups, which are grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat and beans.

“Try to incorporate whole grains, fruits, vegetables or beans into your kids’ snack-eating plan,” Reames said, adding, “Limit foods and drinks with added sugars.”

Healthful snack-attack supplies include peanut butter; cheese spread or slices; whole-grain crackers; small bagels and pita bread; and non-sugarcoated, ready-to-eat cereals.

Also, keep cleaned, raw vegetables such as celery and carrot sticks or red pepper strips in the refrigerator along with some low-fat ranch dressing for a tasty dip.

Portion out the snacks or offer a single-serve package to keep serving sizes in line with children’s needs.

Reames offers additional snack ideas and their nutritional value from the MyPyramid food groups:

Grains. Grain foods are the foundation for healthful eating. They supply carbohydrates, some B vitamins, iron and fiber. Examples include cracker stacks (wheat crackers topped with low-fat cheese slices); flavored mini rice cakes or popcorn cakes; breads, especially whole-wheat, multigrain or rye; ginger snaps or fig bars; popcorn; trail mixes, which are ready-to-eat cereals mixed with raisins or other dried fruit; and graham crackers.

Vegetables. Veggies supply beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C, carbohydrates, fiber and water. Examples include vegetable sticks such as carrot, celery, green pepper, cucumber or squash; celery stuffed with peanut butter; cherry tomatoes cut in small pieces; steamed broccoli; and green beans or sugar peas with low-fat dip.

Fruits. Fruits provide beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C, carbohydrates, fiber and water. Examples include apple ring sandwiches (peanut butter on apple rings); orange or tangerine sections; chunks of banana or pineapple; canned fruits packed in juice; and a juice box (100 percent juice).

Milk. Milk is a rich source of calcium for strong bones and teeth. Examples include milk shakes made with fruit and milk; cheese slices with thin apple wedges; and string cheese or individually wrapped cheese slices.

Meat and beans. Meats and beans supply proteins, which serve as building materials for the growth and repair of body tissues. Examples include hard-cooked eggs (wedges or slices); peanut butter spread thin on crackers; and bean dip spread thin on crackers.

Snacks that combine food groups include a bean burrito; a cheese quesadilla with salsa and lettuce; a yogurt-and-fruit smoothie with graham crackers; a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with sliced fruit and milk; a small salad with sliced deli meat, tuna or beans; and assortments of fruit, cheese and whole-grain crackers.

Reames suggests that parents have their children help plan simple snacks such as crackers and cheese or dried fruit and bite-size, whole-wheat crackers packed in a bag. Allow the youngsters to select a new-to-them vegetable or fruit. Sample the “new” foods together.

For additional information about healthful eating, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter home page at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Contact: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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