If your kids are constantly snacking, you can feel a little better about their eating habits if you know that what they’re munching on is wholesome and tasty. I recently met with Kate Geagan, RDN, and Earth’s Best spokesperson, to discuss some smart new snacking options for kids.
Snacking has its unhealthy connotations, but if you branch out beyond the processed stuff, you can introduce your child to more mom-approved snacks you’ll both enjoy. “Snacks are comprising a larger portion of our calories than ever before, which means that nutrient-rich snacks are more important than ever before,” Geagan says. The fix? A range of delicious and beneficial superfoods.
Superfoods have been big in the news lately, with their potential for immunity-boosting and age-defying properties. If you’re skeptical about the powers of superfoods, take solace in knowing that the core of the buzzword is based in real science. The nutritional values of foods like beets, quinoa and blueberries are common knowledge, and since you already know they’re good for you, their booming popularity is worth taking advantage of.
When stocking your kitchen with superfoods, the darker and more vibrant the better. Opt for deep green produce like kale, beets and sweet potatoes that are versatile enough to be blended in a smoothie or tossed in a salad. Pump up foods lacking in nutrients like white potatoes with darker, richer superfoods for a more balanced dish.
For on-the-go snacks, kids can pop dark chocolate-covered seeds or fruit for the antioxidants, or even make their own creations. Lay out a do-it-yourself granola assortment with coconut, cranberries and sunflower seeds, or arrange a fruit salad bar with superfood stone fruits like plums and cherries. Many superfoods are also available in portable snack packs for nutrition on the run, like Earth’s Best line of fruit and yogurt smoothies or infant puree pouches.
Most children have grown up with the a few tried-and-true favorite fruits and vegetables in their lunchboxes, but offering a treat from a completely different part of the world can open your little one up to more sophisticated snacking. “Expose your children to a greater variety,” Geagan encourages. With more choices, your child is sure to find something she likes and won’t grow tired of the same snacks day after day.
Geagan also suggests taking your child to the grocery store to choose unusual dried fruits, nuts and grains from the bulk section and explaining the foods’ countries of origin. Teach your child about acai berries from Central and South America or purple sweet potatoes popular in Japan.
The goal is to raise a healthy eater for life, Geagan says. Being more adventurous is just a bonus.
Put these super snacks on your shopping list the next time you go to the grocery store:
Parents caught up with tennis star, humanitarian, father (and now snack-creator) Andre Agassi upon the launch of his new snack line for kids, Box Budd!es. Agassi teamed up with V20 Foods to create snacks from milk boxes to granola bars.We particularly enjoyed the fun new Peachy Apple Fruit Pouch as a twist on traditional applesauce. The chocolate granola bars win the Parents vote since they’re the perfect size for a lunchbox treat, with only 100 calories and 5 grams of sugar each. Not to mention, all of the proceeds from these foods benefit the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. But aside from this endeavor, as dad to Jaden, 11, and Jaz, 9, this pro has plenty to say about healthy eating, kids and sports, and teaching your child kindness.
P: What got you started on the nutritional front for kids?
AA: The impetus was about education and it morphed into educating on two fronts. All the money goes to my Foundation for Education, so we can educate our future, and we also educate parents on how to make better choices for their kids.
P: The snacks are a bit healthier and the proceeds support education, but I have to imagine taste was a factor. Were Jaden and Jaz your taste-testers?
AA: They were two of them, let me put it that way. Their cousins were four more and their friends. As we got closer to the end product it became a fun thing in the house. We would line up all these blind taste tests and cut them into little tiny squares so you could compare them and then they would all do their little notes about them. It was actually a pretty fun process.
P: So are applesauce and chocolate milk some of their favorite foods?
AA: We have the same dilemma every parent has in that you keep your kids living a well-balanced health lifestyle and it starts with educating them on their choices and forcing them to eat something healthy before they eat something that’s not as healthy.
P: What are you tricks of the trade in getting them to choose that healthier option?
AA: Well, it’s a mandate. If you want something that’s unhealthy for a snack, you first have to eat an apple. You want to go to dessert, you have to finish this on your plate. It’s filling them up on the good stuff before they choose the bad stuff. If they ask for snacks, as long as they eat something healthy they can have the snack. We don’t discriminate against the snack as long as they start with the healthy option.
P: I know that you are involved with the Boys and Girls club, an organization that mixes education and athletics. Do Jaden and Jaz play sports to keep active and healthy?
AA: Yeah. My son plays baseball, full stop, and my daughter’s on two hip hop dance competition teams. She is rock hard now and she’s nine. I didn’t even know bodies could do those movements. It’s crazy to watch her do it.We’re there at competitions and games cheering all the time.
P: In your autobiography, Open, you talk a lot about how tennis felt pressurized for you. How do you keep athletics, or dance, or physical activity in general fun for your kids?
AA: Well, we’re not the kind of parents who expect them to do this for a lifetime. We try to nurture what they gravitate towards and they both found their niche pretty quickly. We just support it. There’s nothing to push them at. They just have to see through their responsibility. It’s really smiple: You’re going to fulfill your responsibility. Jaz is part of two dance competitions. She doesn’t have to do it next year, but this year I say, “You’re going to every practice, you’re going to go to every competition.” Same with Jaden—he can make his choices year to year if that’s what he chooses, but I harp on being responsible.
P: Through your Foundation and all of the wonderful causes that you’ve been a supporter of, giving back is clearly an important value to you. How do you go about instilling that value in your children?
AA: All of those things I did that led me to education. I got tired of sticking band-aids on issues and I wanted to give the tools for real systemic change. But I will tell you this, and one thing I’ve learned most profoundly as a parent: children will learn from what they see way more than what you tell them. So the fact that I’m in New York right now for two days and I’m not home with them, they want to know where I am and why I’m going. I walk them through what I’m doing, as an example, with Box Budd!es. They all of a sudden realize that I’m not really doing something I want to do—I don’t want to travel, I don’t want to leave them—but I have to because it is the right thing to do. So they see that more than telling them. Next thing you know on the weekend they’re having a lemonade drive for the ASPCA to save pets and animals. It’s remarkable how that correlates.
P: I know that Jaden has a birthday coming up, he’s about to turn 12. Do you have birthday plans?
AA: Both of them actually. Jaz wants to take her entire dance team to the Jabberwockies. So that would be the third year in a row she wants to do that. They’re better athletes than anyone I’ve ever seen on a tennis court. They’re remarkable what they can do. Jaden, his birthday is late October so he’s still sort of morphing back and forth between a very understated barbeque with just a few friends or a big movie night with his entire team.
P: Will you serve Box Budd!es at the birthday party?
I’m gonna push this as much as possible. I hope this brand builds. I hope that when people see that seal, that logo, that this is really going towards our future, that they trust the source, and that 100 percent of all my proceeds are going directly to our future.
“The Snack Epidemic” in our March issue has been stirring up passionate responses about kids’ near constant snacking. While some parents completely agree with writer Sally Kuzemchak about the need to implement healthier snack habits at home, school, and on the field, others think it’s unnecessary to limit how their growing children eat, and think the extra treats are just a part of kids being– well –kids.
In case you missed it, Kuzemchak, a dietician, blogger, and mommy of two, shared her personal story – specifically, how giant cupcakes served as a team snack after her son’s soccer game sent her over the edge. When she started to do her homework, Kuzemchak found she wasn’t just overreacting, but that studies have shown snacking has nearly tripled since the 70s, and 8-year-olds who burn around 150 calories during the average soccer game are consuming between 300 to 500 calories in a post-game snack.
I was lucky enough to catch up with the healthy snack crusader, who had tons more to say about the munching debate. Check out my Q&A, and definitely take a look at this video, which Sally made by compiling pictures of all the snacks she and some friends have spotted on the sidelines of their young kids’ soccer games.
You may have read the news yesterday that blueberries and strawberries can lower your risk of heart disease by about a third. I thought the study—a joint effort between Harvard University and East Anglia University in England—was totally cool for two reasons: Researchers started tracking the women when they were young moms—25 to 42—while most other work of this kind has been done in older women, and blueberries and strawberries are my daughter’s two favorite foods. Seriously, Katie said to me a couple of weeks ago, “I like strawberries better than candy.” And knowing how much she loves candy, that’s a bold statement!
Last night, I sent a note to one of the study’s authors, Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., from East Anglia University, asking whether she thought her results applied to kids as well as moms. She responded right away: “This is a very interesting question,” she wrote. “We don’t have data on kids but if you extrapolate from our study, it’s likely that a healthy diet in childhood will also play out to a reduced risk of heart disease later in life.” That’s good enough for me. High cholesterol and high blood pressure, two big-time risk factors for heart disease, are becoming increasingly common in kids. One study published last year found that 24,000 children received treatment for elevated BP in 2006—double that compared to a decade before.
Dr. Cassidy also added that besides the strawberries and blueberries that got all the attention on the news yesterday, eggplant, plums, red cabbage, and other berries (like cranberries and raspberries) are also rich in pigments called anthocyanins that help lower the risk of heart disease and keep blood pressure in check. I’ve found some great recipes for each of them. Dig in!
Fewer U.S. Kids Dying of Diabetes
According to federal health officials, the 61% decrease of kids dying of diabetes is due to better treatment and increased awareness. (via HealthDay)
Study Finds Healthy Snacks Still Limited in Some U.S. Schools
U.S. school children searching for a healthy snack at school may find a bag of potato chips is much easier to come by, a new report says. (via Reuters)
A Little Exercise May Help Kids with ADHD Focus
Twenty minutes of exercise may help kids with ADHD settle in to read or solve a math problem, new research suggests. (via Fox News)
Parents’ Anxiety Can Trickle Down to Kids
A new study suggests children are at a higher risk of developing anxiety if a parent has a social anxiety disorder. (via PsychCentral)
Church-Going Teens Go Further With School
Sociologists have found that religiously-affiliated youth are 40 percent more likely to graduate high school than their unaffiliated peers, and 70 percent more likely to enroll in college. (via ScienceDaily)
If you’re looking for inspiration for fun crafts to try out this weekend or ideas for some simple, kid-friendly recipes to cook next week, you’ve come to the right place. This is the first installment of our new weekly Pinterest roundup, where we’ll feature the most popular pins from all the Parents pinboards. Check them out below, and leave a comment telling us what you like to see most on Pinterest!
Bring the kid’s menu home with these low-fat chicken strips. They only take ten minutes to prep, and you can make them even more fun by serving it with your kid’s favorite dipping sauces. The best part? Since they’re baked instead of fried, each serving only has 6 grams of fat!
To make this adorable ladybug, have your child dip yarn into a blend of equal parts water and glue before wrapping the sticky strands around two different-sized balloons. Let them dry completely before popping the balloons and adding antennae made from chenille stems and black felt dots to the body.
These healthy Blueberry-Banana Stacks are guaranteed to make snack time more enjoyable. Get the little ones to help pile each treat up, and watch them disappear as fast as they can make them.
Looking for custom invitations for your kid’s next birthday extravaganza? This cupcake invite is only one of the many free templates you can choose from, and we’ve made it easy to make them your own. Just download each pattern, fill in your information, and print them out!
Sign up for our free birthday newsletter! Get personalized party tips and ideas specific to your kid’s age delivered to your inbox each week leading up to the big day.
Nurse Accused in Baby Abduction, Mom Death Due in Court
A nurse who had suffered a miscarriage was desperate to find a child, so she went exactly where she knew she could find one: the suburban Houston clinic where she had taken her three children for checkups, authorities say.
Report Estimates 8 Million Children Hurt by Foreclosures
Five years into the foreclosure crisis, an estimated 2.3 million children have lived in homes lost to foreclosure, according to a report from First Focus, a Washington, D.C-based bipartisan advocacy group focused on families.
Think Carrots, Not Candy as School Snack, Group Suggests
Junk food may soon be hard to buy at American public schools as the U.S. government readies new rules requiring healthier foods to be sold beyond the cafeteria – a move most parents support, according to a poll released on Thursday.
“Would you support a fruit-and-water-only snack policy for your kid’s sports team?” That’s the question we posed to our Facebook followers on March 5, in the form of a poll. 303 people said yes, 41 said no.
I’d like to take that concept further. If you would support such a policy, tell me this: Would you welcome a letter like the one that follows? Please keep in mind that it’s referring to young children playing low-intensity peewee-type activities–NOT older kids in sports where they’re burning lots of calories and expending a lot of energy. (That’s key!) Please read the letter and then answer the poll. This is all part of the research we’re doing for a story in the magazine on kids and snacks. Thanks!
I’m organizing the team snack schedule this season, and the coach and I have a suggestion: Remember the orange slices we all ate on the sidelines as kids? Let’s bring them back!
We’re concerned about the snacks being offered at kids’ games and know that many of you are, too. We all sign our kids up for sports to keep them active and fit, but the cookies, chips, cupcakes, doughnuts, and sugary drinks handed out after games aren’t in line with that mission.
This season we’re requesting a fruit-and-water-only snack policy for our team. Fruit contains carbohydrates to replenish their energy, plus vitamins, fiber, and extra fluid to hydrate them. And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children need only to drink water after exercise, not juice or sports drinks.
When it’s your turn to supply snacks, we ask that you bring fresh fruit, such as apples, grapes, slices of watermelon, or unsweetened dried fruit. Bananas and small boxes of raisins are inexpensive options. Each child should bring his or her own full water bottle to each game. Please do not bring juice boxes/pouches or sports drinks for the team.
If you don’t think your child will eat fruit or you feel he needs something more after the game, please bring your own snack and give it to your child when he’s away from the field.
With this snack policy, our team can set an example for the whole league. We all care about our kids and want the best for them, so let’s start here. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about this policy. Thank you!