Help kids choose better snacks

Children today get more than a quarter of their daily calories from junk food, snacking on salty and sugary treats three or even more times a day.  Snacks play an important role in a child’s nutrition by helping curb between-meal hunger and by providing them with more opportunities to eat healthy foods. The problem with many popular snacks is that they don’t deliver much nutritionally, so parents should try to introduce their kids to healthy snack choices from an early age. Here are some great-tasting, healthy snacks worth considering:

Edamame is a great snack for kids because a half cup serving of edamame contains 100 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. Edamame is the only vegetable that offers a complete protein profile equal to both meat and eggs. Protein aids in muscle growth while fiber helps you stay full. Edamame is rich in calcium, iron, zinc, and many of the B vitamins. You can find edamame in shelled or pod packages in the freezer section of most grocery stores or dried (for a crunchy snack). Kids love this snack because it’s fun pop it right out of the pod.

Nori (Dried Seaweed) is rich in iodine and iron and high in protein. It is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium and riboflavin (B2). Not only does Nori have all these nutritional riches, but it is also a low-fat food. Nori is perfect for making kid-friendly sushi rolls. To keep your sushi rolls from getting soggy, place the veggies (cucumber, avocado and carrots cut into thin strips) in a Ziploc baggie and the Nori sheets in another baggie. Then, when your child is hungry they can grab a handful of veggies and make their own sushi roll.

Sweet Potatoes Chips are an easy alternative to potato chips that are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, calcium, and iron. For a healthier alternative to potato chips try making sweet potato chips by baking paper thin slices of sweet potato until crispy or try cutting into thin strips, seasoning with salt, pepper, a pinch of cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon olive oil-baked until soft on the inside but crisp on the outside. Your child will no doubt prefer a bag of homemade sweet potato chips to greasy store bought potato chips.

Greek Yogurt is a delicious alternative to other yogurts and it’s great in smoothies or for making dips. Greek yogurt has 2-3 times the amount of protein as other yogurts and is higher in calcium than many other dairy. Yogurt also contains probiotics to help maintain healthy gut flora. Even better is that with Greek yogurt’s growing popularity, there are dozens of flavors and varieties that suit even the pickiest eater’s palate.

Berries are a super fruit for kids because they pack an incredible amount of nutritional goodness into a small package. One cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber, is loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and is naturally low in calories. Fiber helps control blood sugar, which helps kids stay more alert and focused during class and stay full longer between meals. A great way to get your fill of berries during the winter months is to buy them frozen. Try adding frozen berries to Greek yogurt and ice and blend to make an on the go smoothie.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight loss book The F-Factor Diet, and she is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website