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A healthy diet is imperative for people of all ages, but it’s especially important for children who need balanced nutritional meals for proper growth and development. It seems like an obvious point, but it’s one that goes unnoticed too often in this country. You only need to look at the figures behind the growing obesity epidemic in the US to understand that kids need to eat better if they want to stay healthy and sharp as they go through these critical developmental years.

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done to keep kids on track with healthy eating habits. You remember what it was like being a kid: the last thing on your mind was eating your green vegetables or making sure that you had a full serving of fruit with every meal. When I was a kid, I had the hardest time accepting healthier snacks over processed and refined snacks like candies, chips, and cheese crackers. It seems like the same problem persists today; kids would rather eat fast food and freeze dried snacks than have an orange or some yogurt, and that’s bad news for health-conscious parents.

Luckily I have some healthy alternatives to typically unhealthy snacks popular with kids. I hope they help!

Salty Snacks

Popcorn: You might be surprised to find this on the list, but unsalted, unbuttered popcorn actually serves as a great snack food. Popcorn is rich in fiber and low in fat and calories, perfect for snacking in between meals. Kids will love eating it as a snack food because they’re probably used to eating it as a treat at the movies or at a friend’s house. Little will they know that its actually much healthier than the typical potato chip!

Mixed Nuts: Mixed nuts are a more adventurous option for healthy snacking. Your kids might hesitate at the notion of swapping their favorite salty snacks for a bowl of almonds, cashews, and walnuts, but the truth is that these nuts pack a ton of nutrients and minerals critical for a balanced diet. You might try incorporating mixed nuts into another dish, like a stir fry or in a desert, before your kids will warm up to them.

Pretzels: Pretzels are a solid choice for parents who want to give their kids a healthier snack option. They can be salty without packing as many calories as most crackers or chips, and they also work as a base to add other foods on top. Your kids can top their pretzels with peanut butter, mustard, or even some celery to give them a little more flavor and variety. Let them have fun with it!

Sweet Snacks

Yogurt with Fruit: Yogurt is a hard sell for some kids, especially if you’re trying to get them to eat non flavored yogurt that’s low in sugar. I find that the best way to introduce non flavored yogurt is to incorporate some healthy sweetness into it. You can mix in fruit like blueberries, apples, or blackberries into yogurt to give it a crunchy texture and a sweet taste that works well against the natural tang of the yogurt.

Granola: Granola is another sweet snack that your kids would probably love if they gave it a try. There are endless varieties of granola, but most have toasted oats, nuts, and cereal of some sort with a hint of sweetness of sugar or honey. All the components of granola are generally healthy, but many store brand granolas tend to have almost as much sugar in a single serving as a bowl of sugary cereal. I recommend making your own granola from scratch: it’ll taste better, and you can use the experience as an activity for your kids to make their own snack!

Dried Fruit: When all else fails, dried fruit will save the day for your kids with a sweet tooth. Raisins, dried berries of all varieties, mangos, and oranges make for great dried fruit snacks that are much more flavorful than a candy bar or a sour gumdrop and certainly better for a person’s health. Try putting a bowl of dried fruit in a prominent place in your home so your kids can rely on them whenever they get hungry.

Amelia Wood writes about medical billing and coding for various blogs and other venues and can be reached at amelia1612@gmail.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to feed their kids healthy foods.

Image courtesy of me and the sysop via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.