The Smart Parent's Guide to Healthy Snacking

Kids' Snacks

Homemade With Love

Kids love all the bells, whistles, and cartoon-themed packaging of supermarket snacks. But if you're looking for more economical--and nutritious--ways to fuel your little ones, try making fun snacks at home that seem a little more special. Here are some easy ways to do it.

Fill tiny, colorful storage containers with our crunchy Kids' Snack Mix. Other good options: cheese and crackers, pea pods and dip, mini cookies, or dried fruit.

Pack mini resealable plastic bags with your child's favorites. That way, you can control portion sizes.

Serve snacks in unexpected ways. Pour cereal and milk into a mug, freeze some single-serve containers of applesauce, make a "painter's palate" by putting dabs of flavored yogurt on a plate and serving it with graham crackers.

Kids' Snack Pyramid

Not sure what's truly healthy and what should be saved for an occasional treat? Use our exclusive pyramid to help plan your child?s snacks each week.

Only for a special treat: candy, chocolate, cheese puffs, potato chips, taco chips, cookies, toaster pastries, cupcakes, snack cakes, doughnuts, french fries, soda.

Fine 3 or 4 times a week: pretzels, ice cream, frozen yogurt, snack crackers, frozen pizza bagels, pudding, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, granola bars, ice pops, fruit juice.

Good for everyday: whole-wheat crackers, unsweetened cereal, cut-up vegetables, fresh fruit, dried fruit, string cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, breadsticks.

Portion-Size Primer

There's an epidemic of childhood obesity in our country, so being aware of portion sizes is especially important, says Christine Williams, M.D., director of the Children's Cardiovascular Health Center at Columbia University, in New York City. Kids currently get 25 percent of their daily calories from snacks, compared to 20 percent decades ago. "Kids need to snack, but extra snacks can add up to extra weight," Williams says. Her daily recommendation: Stick to three 100- to 150-calorie snacks for preschoolers and two 200-calorie snacks for school-age children.

100-150 Calorie Snacks
1 cup applesauce
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1 oz. string cheese with crackers
1 slice whole-grain toast with low-fat spread
1 cup cereal and milk

200 Calorie Snacks
Veggies and low-fat dip
2 rice cakes and peanut butter
1/2 cup trail mix
1/2 sandwich with lean meat on whole-wheat bread
Baked potato with cheese

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