EASTERN NIAGARA HEALTHLINES: Choose healthy snacks for kids

David Arlington

As summer draws to a close and the new school year approaches, this means back to school shopping is starting. Parents are going to be helping their kids get new school supplies, new clothing and much more. One factor that can be overlooked by parents when preparing their kids for school is making sure they are eating healthy throughout the day by providing them with healthy snacks.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, these are some healthy and easy options to provide for children:

Fruit — There are many different types of fresh fruits that are healthy and taste good due to their natural sweetness: Bananas, blackberries, cherries, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, strawberries, watermelon and more. Items that have a longer shelf life with low cost include applesauce (unsweetened), low-sugar fruit cups and canned fruit; the key is to make sure they are preserved in a natural juice or light syrup. Also, don’t forget to look at different types of dried fruit like raisins, but again, watch out for the added sugar. Avoid fruit snacks (gummies, etc.) that appear to be healthy, but are loaded with sugar and serve more as candy than anything else.

Vegetables — Many vegetables taste good, but can become even more appealing when served with raw hummus, dip or a bit of salad dressing. Think broccoli, celery sticks, bell peppers (green, red, or yellow), tomatoes (sliced, grape or cherry), zucchini and more. The key is to make sure the dips are healthy. Try to make sure they are low fat; fat-free ranch or Thousand Islands dressing, guacamole, salsa and peanut butter are all good choices. Also, don’t be afraid to try to have some fun with these snacks. Ever had "ants on a log"? This is a celery stick spread with peanut butter and dotted with raisins.

Others — Healthy grain-based snacks include English muffins, pitas, tortillas, breakfast cereal, crackers, rice cakes, popcorn, granola, etc. Just make sure that these items are whole grain and low in fat. There are plenty of healthy dairy foods out there as well: Yogurt, cheese and other easy to serve options that pair well with whole grain foods, like cheese and crackers or granola with yogurt. Again, be sure to select low-fat options.

There are many great healthy snack options to send with children to school. Be sure they also select a healthy drink, preferably water or milk, to go with snacks. As this school year approaches, all parents should take time to do some research and make sure they are sending their kids off to school with healthy, nutritious foods. When children get used to eating right at an early age, they can live a longer, happier, healthy life.

David Arlington is an intern in the community relations department at Eastern Niagara Health System and a student at Baldwin Wallace University. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a bi-weekly special feature by Eastern Niagara Health System. For more information, call 514-5505.