Mini Meals Keep Kids Focused

Mini Meals Keep Kids Focused

With school back in session, children will be expending more energy daily. To help them stay energized, parents should look to snacks.

That does not mean a lot of junk food, but, rather, healthy mini-meals that are an important part of a child's diet, Jackie Carr, a clinical dietitian at Southeast Georgia Health System, says.

"Children need to eat often, because they have smaller stomachs and require additional energy, or calories, for activity and growth. Your child needs at least three meals and two or three healthful snacks daily," she said.

"Snacks should be limited to nutritious foods from the basic food groups. Meals and snacks should be eaten at a table and at regular times. If children graze or eat constantly all day long they will not be hungry at meal times."

Getting children to reach for healthy, nutrient-packed snacks, however, can be tricky. Many children only want sugar-heavy or fatty snacks.

Carr concedes that occasionally these treats are OK, but only in moderation.

"There is no need to severely decrease fat or simple sugar intake, but fatty and sweet food choices should not overwhelm more nutritious ones, meaning the occasional cookie, candy or bag of chips can be included in your child's diet, if your child makes smart choices at most meals," she said.

Of course, there are ways to make healthy items more appealing. Carr suggests that parents mix in fruits and vegetables in ways that seem exciting to children.

Here are some of her favorite (and easy to create) treats for kids:

--Trail mix: Combine whole grain ready-to-eat cereal with dried fruits, such as raisins, apricots, apples and nuts in a sandwich bag for an on-the-go snack.

--Snack kabobs: Alternate cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on a pretzel stick.

--Waffles: Toast a whole grain waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and sliced peaches or strawberries.

--Banana pops: Dip a banana in yogurt, then roll it in crushed cereal and freeze.

--Fruit smoothie: Blend low-fat milk, frozen berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and a banana for 30 seconds.

--Mini-sandwich: Top a dinner roll with tuna or egg salad.

--Easy quesadilla: Sprinkle a corn tortilla with shredded Monterrey jack cheese, fold in half and microwave for 20 seconds. Serve with salsa.

--Fruit and yogurt parfait: Alternate layers of low-fat vanilla yogurt, granola and fruit, such as berries, in a parfait or other glass.

--Ants on a log: Spread low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter on celery sticks and top with raisins.

--Roll ups: Spread mustard on a flour tortilla, top with a slice of low-fat cheese, ham or turkey, then roll up.

--Rocky road pudding: Break graham crackers into bite-size pieces and mix with low-fat chocolate pudding and a few mini marshmallows.

--Mini pizza: Top a toasted English muffin with pizza sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese.

--Dunkers: Dip baby carrots or cherry tomatoes in low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese mixed with dried ranch dressing mix; dip strawberries or apple slices in low-fat yogurt or peanut butter; dip animal crackers in low-fat pudding; dip bread sticks in salsa; dip graham crackers in applesauce.

Lindsey Adkison, The Brunswick News, Ga.

Copyright © 2011, The Brunswick News, Ga.
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