Fruits and Vegetables
Most of the snacks served to children should be fruits and vegetables, since most kids do not eat the recommended five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Serving fresh fruits and vegetables can seem challenging. However, good planning and the growing number of shelf-stable fruits and vegetable products on the market make it easier. Though you may think fruits and vegetables are costly snacks, they are actually less expensive than many other less-healthful snacks on a per-serving basis. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of a serving of fruit or vegetable (all types—fresh, frozen and canned) is 25 cents per serving. This is a good deal compared with a 99-cent single-serve bag of potato chips or a $1 candy bar. Try lots of different fruits and vegetables and prepare them in various ways to find out what your kids like best.
Fruit is naturally sweet, so most kids love it. Fruit can be served whole, sliced, cut in half, cubed or in wedges. Canned, frozen and dried fruits often need little preparation. But please note that large chunks are a choking hazard for children younger than 4 and should be avoided.
- Apples (it can be helpful to use an apple corer)
- Grapes (cut into thin slices for kids younger than 4)
- Honeydew Melon
- Kiwis (cut in half and have your child eat it with a spoon)
- Mandarin oranges
Applesauce (Unsweetened), Fruit Cups, and Canned Fruit
These have a long shelf life and are low-cost, easy, and healthy if canned in juice or light syrup. Examples of unsweetened applesauce include Mott's Natural Style and Mott's Healthy Harvest line. Dole and Del Monte offer a variety of single-serve fruit bowls.
Try raisins, apricots, apples, cranberries, pineapple, papaya, and others with little or no added sugars.
Try freezing grapes or buy frozen blueberries, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, and melon.
Some brands of fruit snacks are more like candy than fruit, and should be avoided due to their high content of added sugars and lack of fruit.
Get kids to help make a fruit salad. Use a variety of colored fruits to add to the appeal.
Most so-called "fruit" popsicles have added sugars and should be reserved for an occasional treat. Look for popsicles made from 100% fruit juice with no added caloric sweeteners, such as Breyers or Dole "No Sugar Added" fruit bars.
Blend fruit with juice, yogurt or milk, and ice. Many store-made smoothies have added sugars and are not healthy choices.
Vegetables can be served raw with dip or salad dressing. Remember that veggies cut in large pieces are a choking hazard for children younger than 4 and should be avoided.
- Carrot sticks or baby carrots
- Celery sticks
- Peppers (green, red, or yellow)
- Snap peas
- Snow peas
- String beans
- Tomato slices or grape or cherry tomatoes
- Yellow summer squash slices
- Zucchini slices
Try low-fat salad dressings, store-bought light dips, bean dips, guacamole, hummus (which comes in dozens of flavors), salsa, or peanut butter. Just be sure to avoid large globs of it for children younger than 2 because it's a choking hazard.
Make a salad or set out veggies like a salad bar and let the kids build their own salads.
Edamame are fun to eat and easy to serve. (Heat frozen edamame in the microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes.)
Cut whole-wheat pitas in half and let kids add veggies with dressing or hummus.
Ants on a Log
Let kids spread peanut butter on celery (with a plastic knife) and add raisins.