Snacking is an essential part of a healthy diet, according to Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a child obesity pediatrician and founder of DrDolgoff.com.
“Going too long without eating is one of the worst things you can do,” says Dolgoff. “Yes, you save calories initially but studies show that you more than make up for those calories during the rest of the day.”
If your kids turn up their noses at nutritious snacks, here are some ways to change their minds:
Come up with silly names
Mary Chao, mom of three and owner of healthy-diet-mom.com, finds that her kids are more interested in eating healthy foods when she comes up with a silly name for the snack. She calls trail mix “Treasure Hunt Trail Mix” and lean turkey with cream cheese and carrots is “Turkey Rock ‘n Roll.”
Your kids may be more excited about eating broccoli florets if you call them “trees” and grapes may be more enticing if they are “dinosaur eggs.”
Go for fun
You can make nutritious snacks more appealing by being creative. Make a funny face out of fruit on a plate and shred carrots for the hair. Or create a small house out of pretzel sticks and cheese cubes. An old standby is making ants on a log by spreading peanut butter on celery sticks and placing raisins on top. Chao serves hardboiled eggs with olive slices on them to make them look like eyeballs.
Let them dip
Children love to use dips and will often eat veggies with dip that they wouldn’t otherwise eat. In addition to baby carrots, offer broccoli, cauliflower and celery with a small serving of dip. Since many dressings are high in fat, Missy Chase Lapine, author of Sneaky Fitness: Fun, Foolproof Ways to Slip Fitness into Your Child’s Everyday Life, suggests mixing the dressing with an equal part of plain yogurt. Vanilla yogurt can also be used as dip for cut-up fruits such as apples, bananas and pineapple.
Another way to get your child to eat vegetables is to serve them with a low-fat cheese fondue.
Use a decoy
In her recipe for Sneaky S’mores (see below), Lapine uses a carrot and sweet potato puree to provide important nutrients for her kids and reduce the amount of fat by half. She makes the treat enticing to kids by adding two small marshmallows and one chocolate chip on the top as a “decoy.” You can make trail mix more appealing by adding in a few chocolate chips. A few colored sprinkles can be used as a decoy on many foods, such as low-fat vanilla yogurt.
Web Extra! Sneaky S’mores
S’mores are a gooey, yummy, all-American camping and cook-out tradition, but they’re usually a once-in-a-while indulgence. With The Sneaky Chef’s guiltless version, however, this sweet treat can be in your kids’ regular rotation. They’ll never tire of the classic combo of marshmallow and chocolate chips, and you’ll never spill that there’s a healthy, whole-grain cookie underneath!
- 11⁄2 cup all-purpose flour (or half white flour combined with half whole grain flour)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1⁄2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1⁄2 cup Orange Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe below)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in egg yolk, Orange Puree, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed. Stir in 1⁄2 cup of the chocolate chips. Pinch off tablespoon amounts of dough and roll about 24 balls in your hands (wet your hands with water or spray them with oil to keep from sticking to dough). Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet about an inch apart. Gently press your thumb into the center of each ball to make a deep indent. Bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cookies from oven and fill each indent with a couple of chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Return cookies to oven for 1 more minute to just slightly melt the marshmallows and chocolate chips.
Sneaky Chef Make-Ahead Recipe: Orange Puree
- 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
- 2 to 3 tablespoons water
Place the sweet potatoes and carrots in a medium-sized pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, until carrots are very tender. Careful-if the carrots aren’t tender enough, they may leave telltale little nuggets of vegetable in recipes, which will reveal their presence to your kids, a gigantic no-no for The Sneaky Chef. Drain the carrots and sweet potatoes and put them in the food processor with 2 tablespoons of water. Puree on high until completely smooth-until no pieces of vegetable show. Stop occasionally to push the contents to the bottom. If necessary, use another tablespoon of water to smooth out the puree, but the less water, the better.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of puree. Orange Puree will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or you can freeze 1⁄4-cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers, and store for 3 months.
Nutrition Information: Per Serving (1 smore, 58g): Calories 130; Total Fat 6g; Fiber 2g; Total Carbohydrate 19g; Sugar 12g; Protein 1g; Sodium 101mg; Cholesterol 12mg; Calcium 20mg