PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The kids are home or will be soon, and that means the hunger cry is coming, too.
So, how should parents react to the all-to-familiar “can I have a snack” question?
The answer is a lot easier if you’ve planned ahead of time.
Dealing with snackers begins with some form of breakfast.
“Eggs or egg bites, or a yogurt smoothie, you know, in addition to having some fruit and still, you could have some carbohydrate, but toast – whole grain – or something like that,” said Laura Zervos, a nutritionist, and dietitian .
Zervos says breakfast will hold them over for a while, but ahead of snack time, cut up some fruits and veggies, even get the kids to help, and have some grab-and-gos.
“Some yogurt, even applesauce, they come in pouches,” she said. “Kids like that single-serve, something they could get on their own.”
Unless you want to be constantly running to the kitchen, keep them within reach. Keep the snacks on a shelf they can reach or in the refrigerator where they can see them.
Zervos said lunch planning is important, too. Make a plate of leftovers as you’re cleaning up dinner, or something like grilled cheese.
“High-fiber tortillas with some cheese, maybe some protein on there, some chicken, that’s kind of a fun food for kids,” she explained. “Cut it up for them, and the little triangles, let them dip it into salsa.”
However, leftovers might not appeal to those parents with a picky eater, so what to do if you have a “food-rejecter” at the table?
Zervos said to keep trying, it can take a child up to seven tries of a food before they really know if they like it or not.
There is also the question of cost – how to keep your child eating healthy but not go broke in the process.
Again, the key is planning, and shopping, ahead.
The large quantities sold at warehouse stores that save you money are ideal for summer snacking – just add small sandwich bags.
“Take the time to portion it in some bags with a snap so they know they could just grab one of those bags and that they get one of those a day,” Zervos said.
She added that don’t become your kid’s short-order cook, one meal fits all, allow the kids to take turns picking, and limit those fast food trips.
“Remember – every time we’re eating out, [it’s] 30-percent higher in sodium-salt in calories,” she said.
One way Zervos recommends responding to that first hunger cry is water, saying that sometimes we “mistake hunger for thirst.”
Which, speaking of, she says water is best and to limit the juice boxes.
“Juices are okay on occasion,” she said. “Again, in moderation, I think would be fine.”
She said that variety is key to making sure your kids are getting the healthy foods they need and not just a steady diet of mac-n-cheese.
“The problem is not just having the mac-n-cheese, it’s all the other things you are missing out,” she explained.
With an eye toward getting in the fruits and proteins, plan the meal, plan the snacks, and get the kids involved in the process.