Before you serve up a mid-morning or afternoon snack, use this checklist of tips from Jodie Shield, R.D., coauthor of American Dietetic Association Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids.
- Time it right. Snacks should complement meals--not replace them. Offer them at regular times each day, at least 1 1/2 hours before a meal.
- Serve snacks in the kitchen, and eliminate any distractions (such as television, video games, and computers) that can lead to mindless overeating.
- Pump it up. For maximum nutrients, aim for at least two food groups in each snack. Some to try: breadsticks and cheese, celery and peanut butter, or our Sunshine Smoothie.
- Practice what you preach. You can't expect your child to learn to eat healthy snacks if you're munching on a candy bar. Be a good role model.
- Think outside the snack-food box. In a rut? Serve hard-boiled eggs, a whole-wheat tortilla with cheese, or our Mini Pizzas.
- Encourage shelf-control. Is your child old enough to raid the snack cabinet? She'll want what she can see and reach, so put nutritious staples front and center and sweets and chips out of sight.
- Travel smart. When you're in the car, bring items such as string cheese, mini bags of pretzels and dry cereal, juice boxes, and baby carrots in a small cooler or insulated lunch box.
- Push protein. Keep your child satisfied by including some protein in his between-meal nibbles, such as cheese, peanut butter, and single-serving cans of tuna.
- Prevent cavities. Encourage your child to brush her teeth--or at least rinse her mouth with water--after snacks.
- Relax! Keep in mind that a few cookies or chips are fine--it's the long-term quality of your child's diet that counts.
Print our handy list of The Best and Worst Munchies for Kids to hang on your refrigerator door.