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Warming Up With Smart Snacks

As the temperature drops, the urge to snack rises. Keep these healthy tips and recipes on hand.

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Snacks are important for active and growing kids. Since your child has a relatively small stomach, she may not be able eat enough calories at one sitting to last five hours until the next meal, so about 20% of her daily calories might be consumed as snacks.

When the days get chilly, your housebound child may have a stronger urge to snack. To help her eat healthy this winter, keep these snacking tips in mind and check out our recipe ideas.

Strive for Five
Government and health agencies encourage all Americans (of every age) to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. To reach this goal, keep a variety of fruits on hand (fresh or canned in juice or light syrup) and combine vegetables with a food or flavor your child likes: celery and peanut butter, low-fat cheese melted on broccoli, carrots grated into oatmeal cookies.

Break Out the Baking Pan
Making cookies, muffins, and other sweets from scratch is worth the extra effort. You control the amount of sweetener; you can reduce the sugar in most standard recipes by 25% without sacrificing flavor. Also, try substituting applesauce for oil or low-fat yogurt for sour cream.

Prep for After School
When your hungry child comes home, have "fast" food ready:

  • English muffin pizzas with a dollop of sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese
  • chilled hardboiled eggs (ready to decorate, then eat)
  • whole-grain cereal
  • sweet potato chips
  • non-buttered popcorn sprinkled lightly with Parmesan cheese

Make Calcium Fun
Build healthy bones with string cheese, yogurt (try adding a pinch of colored sprinkles), and chocolate milk.

Offer Finger-friendly Food

  • veggies with honey-mustard dipping sauce
  • fruit cut into chucks with a cup of vanilla yogurt;
  • leftover chicken or turkey cut into strips with a side of light teriyaki sauce.
Serve with lots of napkins!

Sneak It In
Of course, you don't want to force your child to eat something she hates, but you might be able to slip a few extra vitamins to her diet by adding vegetable-rich bean salsa to chips. Other ideas: place thin slices of zucchini and squash under pizza cheese, or add cauliflower to mashed potatoes.

Be a Role Model
Your child is more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, drink milk, and limit sweets if she sees you enjoy these healthy practices.

Recipes
Cooking with your child gives you the chance to teach her how to control what she eats in a healthy way. It is also a great time to practice following directions, counting, measuring, readingand cleaning up! Here are some recipes kids can help make.

Carrot-Oatmeal Cookies
Packed with flavor and vitamins, these cookies are delicious with hot apple cider after an afternoon playing in the snow.

What you need:

  • nonstick vegetable spray
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 1/4 cups instant oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • walnuts (up to 1/2 cup; optional)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Coat 2 cookie sheets with nonstick vegetable spray and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together oil, brown sugar, molasses, and egg whites
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, dry milk, and cinnamon.
  5. Add the dry mixture to the oil mixture.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients to the flour and oil mixture.
  7. Mix well with a whisk or let kids crumble together the ingredients with clean hands.
  8. Drop rounded teaspoons of the dough onto the cookie sheets,
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
  10. Remove the cookies, cool, and serve. Or freeze to serve later.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Sweet Potato Chips
These are a good alternative to greasy, high-sodium chips when your child wants a snack while watching television or playing video games.

What you need:

  • nonstick vegetable spray
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Coat cookie sheets with nonstick vegetable spray and set aside.
  3. Wash and skin potatoes.
  4. Cut potatoes into thin slices
  5. Gently rub a little bit of oil onto the potato slices as you place them in a bowl. Toss with your hands to distribute the oil.
  6. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Toss again.
  8. Spread the slices on the baking sheets and cook for 20 minutes.
  9. Turn chips and bake another 5 minutes or until slightly crisp.
  10. Cool and serve.

Salsa
Heat things up with a little south-of-the-border flavor. You'll need to do most of the chopping, but kids can dish out the salsa to spice up meals and snacks.

What you need:

  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 ripe kiwi
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/2 jalapeno (minced)
  • handful of minced cilantro (optional)
  • small can of black beans (drained)
  • salt to taste

What to do:

  1. Wash and dry all the vegetables.
  2. Chop the tomatoes, kiwi, onion, and pepper into very fine cubes.
  3. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Use to top quesadillas, tacos, chips, potatoes, and pretzels.

Find more cooking projects kids can enjoy, try The Magic Spoon Cookbook by Suzanne Gooding.

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