We know what we're feeding our children for dinner, but what are they consuming when we're not there to supervise? For many Americans, getting kids on the path to eating healthy starts with their experience in childcare.
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Fight Back Against Childhood Obesity
Take note, parents: When it comes to your child's nutrition, you should look beyond what's happening at your own dinner table. At a recent pediatric conference, childhood health experts nationwide called daycare "the next frontier" in battling obesity, a disease that afflicts one in three American kids under the age of 17. Why the new focus on daycare? Parents are often asked to provide classroom snacks for their children and the kids' classmates a few times a month. Unfortunately, that means time-strapped Moms and Dads often reach for the most convenient packaged option, which can be loaded with preservatives, fat, and excess calories. But there are alternatives. Follow these tips for putting your child on the right nutritional path, even when you can't be there to supervise.
Hop On the Trail (Mix) Bandwagon
Tossing together some trail mix is as easy as pouring mini pretzels, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dried cranberries into a resealable plastic bag. For some extra zip, add a few dark chocolate chips into the mix.
One ounce of cheese is a simple and satisfying snack that packs a powerful protein-filled punch. For convenience's sake, send individually wrapped sticks of string cheese. Apple slices and strawberries provide a sweet, delicious accompaniment.
Eat (or Slurp) Your Yogurt
Nothing says fun and nutritious like kid-friendly yogurt, like Yoplait's Go-Gurt and Dannon's drinkable Danimals, perfect for the single-serve snacks that a childcare center typically requires. These yogurt products strike an ideal balance between good-for-you and fun-to-eat.
Take a Healthy Turn on Chips
Bare Fruit's Fuji Apple Chips provide parents a ready-to-eat, yet healthy, alternative to your average snack food. The organic one-ingredient snack (apples!) is gluten- and preservative-free with no added sugars. Find it at your local grocery store.
Make Fruit Fun
Fruit kabobs are a delicious, easy-to-eat treat that kids love, with no special trip to the grocery store required--just use the fruit you have on hand. Nearly all fruit is skewer-able -- and nutritious to boot. Simply cut various types of fruit -- strawberries, bananas, pineapple, and apples work well -- into small pieces and voil?!.
Expand Your (Kids') Horizons
When it comes to snacks, edamame (soybeans) is as simple as it gets. Grab a bag from your grocery's freezer case -- look for flash-frozen varieties to avoid unnecessary sodium and preservatives -- and leave in the fridge to defrost. An hour later you have a childcare-ready treat.
Get Back to Basics
Nothing says "just like Mom used to make" like the classic after-school snack of apple slices and peanut butter. Before providing any day-care snacks with nuts, check with caretakers about any potential allergies.
Popcorn -- sans butter -- gives kids the feeling of getting a special treat typically reserved for a weekend trip to the movies. For maximum nutritional value, skip the microwave varieties in favor of air-popped popcorn that you season yourself. We recommend Parmesan cheese, herbs, and spices.
Make it Mediterranean
The combination of veggies and hummus can satisfy the hungriest of little tummies: Veggies have vitamin-packed, filling fiber, and hummus provides a creamy, protein-filled zip. Cucumbers, carrots, and red and yellow bell peppers go well with the chickpea spread. Pick up a tub at your local supermarket, but watch that ingredients list (the shorter, the better).
Snack Attack? Easy Squeeze-y.
For a fun, nutritious take on the standby snack of applesauce, GoGo SqueeZ lets kids take things into their own hands. GoGo SqueeZ offers five varieties of applesauce, including apple banana and apple strawberry, in a resealable, squeeze-able pouch; no spoon required. The 3.2-ounce pouches of all-natural yumminess are widely available at grocery stores and online at Amazon.