Parents' Guide to Healthy Snacks
As a mom of two, sometimes it feels like all I do is feed my kids. With my oldest in kindergarten this year, we’ve introduced a snack session right when he walks through the door every afternoon. We are officially an After School Snack Family. Chatting with local pediatric dentists Dr. Cheek and Dr. Jones about all things dental health reminded me to take a second look at what I’m offering the boys each day and make sure that those choices support their growing bodies and healthy smiles.
1. Grab-and-Go Snacks
First up, grab-and-go snacks. These snack MVPs should always be on your grocery list and stashed in your kitchen. They fall under the late-for-practice-gotta-go-but-I’m-hungry category.
Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables
“Fresh fruits and vegetables are always best!” Dr. Jones says. Plus, these self-contained snacks are easy to eat on the fly and pack a nutritional and tooth-healthy punch.
Dentists’ Take: Foods with a hard texture give the teeth an extra brush.
Grocery Must-Haves: Celery, apples and carrots.
Calcium- and Phosphorus-Rich Foods
If crunchy, raw fruits and veggies aren’t your kids’ first choice, there are other easy options that are just as fun and just as healthy. Dr. Cheek suggests foods rich in calcium and phosphorus.
Dentists’ Take: Foods that are rich in calcium and phosphorus also help to repair enamel.
Grocery Must-Haves: Yogurt tubes, nuts and cheese sticks
2. Snacks to Prepare with Your Kids
I try to get my kids in on food prep as often as I can. The likelihood that they’ll try a new food is much higher if they help measure, pour or stir the ingredients.
There’s something to try for all ages here. They're ranked from easy to advanced to help you choose what’s best for your family.
Easy: Apples + Nut Butter
Even the youngest kitchen helper can spoon out a helping of their favorite nut butter to go with some crunchy apple slices.
Intermediate: Homemade Granola
I actually love making homemade granola in the crockpot. That makes it easy for kids to help dump and stir ingredients. Best yet, it’s distracted-mom friendly. The granola doesn’t burn suddenly as I’ve had happen in the oven. The possibilities are endless with this yummy treat, but I usually start with a base of oats, honey and coconut oil and go from there. Bonus points for pairing your granola with yogurt for a calcium boost.
Advanced: Hummus + Fresh Veggies
Homemade hummus typically requires the use of a food processor. The introduction of sharp blades earns this recipe an advanced rating. But really, hummus is simple and quick to make. It’s just a puree of chickpeas and tahini paste. Adding spices like cumin and a dash of lemon juice sends flavor to the next level.
3. Going Out: Frozen Yogurt
A great grade, a final game or a stellar performance means it’s time to celebrate! Dr. Cheek suggests frozen yogurt as a fun snack to go enjoy as a family. Remember to make sure your toppings support dental health as well.
Dentists’ Take: Frozen yogurt contains healthy bacteria and calcium. But the best frozen yogurt for your teeth are those that are made with low-fat Greek yogurt which contains lots of protein.
Healthy snacking was Dr. Cheek’s top pick for healthy dental habits to start when kids are young. As parents, we can help guide our kids to great food choices that don’t skimp on fun or flavor. Keeping healthier options on hand and getting kids to help with the prep can help your kid learn to make good food choices for a lifetime.