Did you know that only 18 percent of children are eating the recommended three or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to a Produce for Kids study released by the Perishables Group? Forty-three percent of parents say their children eat one or fewer servings daily.
"At a time when approximately 25 million kids in the US are overweight, healthy snacking is more important than ever," says Connie Evers, nutritionist and author of "How to Teach Nutrition to Kids." "Eating more fruits and vegetables can contribute to a healthy weight and improve overall health. Offering kids a sweet alternative they love, like Cuties, instead of unhealthy, sugary snacks, is a great way to get more fresh produce into their diets."
Evers has come up with these ten ways to encourage children to choose healthy snacks:
1. Plan a snack adventure - Involve children in snack planning, shopping for ingredients and simple food preparation. Together, devise a healthy snack list that includes foods from all five food groups. Keep it posted on the refrigerator as a reminder.
2. Keep snacks at eye level - When your child walks into the kitchen, what catches her eye? Make sure to have a bowl of appetizing fruit on the kitchen counter.
3. Pack their bags - Make sure your child has plenty of healthy "grab-n-go" snacks in his/her backpack.
4. Make faces - Encourage your child to "make faces" with his food by arranging cutup fruit and vegetable strips on open-faced peanut butter sandwiches, whole grain waffles, burritos or mini-pizzas.
5. Eat a rainbow - When shopping with your child, make it a game to find produce that is red, green, blue/purple, orange, brown and white. When you get home, use those foods to prepare a colorful snack together.
6. Homework helper - In the late afternoon (when kids are super hungry), set out fruit and veggies near them as they do their homework. Include foods such as fruit, mini sandwiches, and string cheese.
7. Cure those pre-dinner "hungries" - Loaded with nutrition yet low in calories, fruits and veggies are an appetizer that won't spoil a child's appetite for dinner.
8. Dip right in - Surveys show that kids will eat more fruits and veggies if presented alongside a dip. Flavored yogurt is a natural dip for fresh fruit sections and chunks.
9. Auto-snacking - Hungry kids and traffic jams don't mix! Make sure to keep water bottles and trail mix stashed in your car for those times you can't get home right away.
10. Food as fuel - For an active child, emphasize that food is the fuel for sports, dance, active play or any kind of movement. Hungry muscles need healthy fuel to work at their best."
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