As most parents know, children tend to be ready to eat as soon as the school bell rings.

But with dinner still a few hours away, it's too easy to let kids reach for convenient snacks that are packed with calories, excess sugar and too much fat. You can help your child-- and family --snack healthier by following these steps.

Improve the accessibility of healthy foods

Research has shown that when healthier food becomes easily accessible for kids they are more likely to eat it. Put some fruit on the dining room table or close to the edge of the kitchen counter so your children can easily see and reach it. Make unhealthier options less accessible.

Think unconventionally

Many times we associate "healthy" with only fruits and vegetables, but numerous other healthy snack options exist. Nuts, popcorn, string cheese and sunflower seeds are just some of the possible choices.

Offer healthier options

Many kids love eating cold snacks like popsicles and ice cream, but you can offer healthier options for them. Purchase popsicles that are low in sugar. Instead of ice cream, try yogurt. If your kids don't like the taste of plain yogurt, try adding berries and crunchy granola.

Set limits on the amount of soda your kids drink

Let them have one per day or two or three per week. Encourage them to drink water and milk instead.

Source: Janet Mullins, associate extension professor

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