"Mom, I'm hungry!" Does it sometimes seem like you just finished serving a meal and your child is already hungry again? Don't worry. It's natural for young children to want to eat between meals. In fact, "grazing" on small healthy snacks throughout the day is actually a good thing. Young children need to eat more often because they tend to naturally eat small portions at a meal. It can be hard for a little one to eat enough at any one sitting to sustain him without the major peaks and dips in energy levels that can occur with long periods between meals.
Not only is grazing nutritionally beneficial for your child, it is also good for his brain! Research has shown that young children's thinking (and even behavior) is improved when they graze several small servings throughout the day instead of eating larger meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Interestingly, most young children innately know to eat only what they need and will not overeat if given the choice to eat small portions throughout the day.
The following recipes are great examples of snacks you and your child can prepare together, and will give you plenty of ideas for healthy foods to keep on hand:
- 1 whole-wheat tortilla or other soft flat bread
- 1 tbsp. light mayonnaise, mild mustard, or even ketchup
- 1 slice of lean turkey breast
- 1 slice low-fat cheese (such as American or cheddar)
- 1 leaf lettuce
- Spread the mayonnaise lightly across the entire tortilla or flat bread. If you are using a squeeze bottle of a spread, your child might like to draw an "X" in the middle of the tortilla.
- Fold the meat and cheese in half and place at the bottom of one end of the tortilla.
- Place lettuce leaf on top.
- Starting at the meat/cheese end, tightly roll the tortilla towards the open end.
- Cut into "wheels" and serve!
Icy Fruit Smoothie
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- ½ cup vanilla yogurt
- ½ cup orange juice
- ½ banana, sliced
- Place all ingredients in blender. Blend on high until mixture is frothy.
- Serve in a pretty see-through cup so your child can enjoy the color as well as the taste!
- Yogurt, including nonfat, frozen, and soy
- Frozen fruit cubes made from pureed or canned juice-packed fruit (peaches, pears) or applesauce
- Bananas dipped in vanilla yogurt
- Mini muffins: fruit, bran, or vegetable
- Leftover potato skins sprinkled with shredded cheese, broiled
- Applesauce or nonfat puddings
- Toothpick kabobs made with cheese, vegetables, or cooked meat
- Low-fat or nonfat cheese slices cut with cookie cutter shapes
- Frozen juice on a stick
- Hard-boiled egg that your child slices himself with a simple (but cool) egg slicer