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Healthy Snacks for Kids While Remote Learning

Kids thrive on routine and schedules. Having structure helps them know what to expect for the day, aids with learning, behavior and sleep, and reduces anxiety. The pandemic has shaken up the structure of our days, and in this new reality of remote learning and working from home, it’s easy to grab a bag of chips from the pantry and graze throughout the day on processed, pre-packaged foods. But it’s important to remember that nutritious food provides kids with the fuel they need to grow and learn. Keeping your days structured and providing regularly timed, healthy snacks and meals will aid in making sure they get the fuel they need.

Overlake Medical Center dietitians Mikeisha Brannock, RDN, CD and Melicent Smith, MS, RDN, along with Kim van Groos, ARNP, with medical weight management at Overlake Clinics, explain what makes a healthy snack, give examples on types of snacks, and offer tips on meal preparation and planning. Adults can apply these tips for creating healthy snacks and meals for themselves, too.

What are some easy, healthy snacks for kids?

Melicent Smith: It’s really important to include protein, healthy fat, and carbs or a starchy vegetable in your snacks. The combination of protein and fat helps to fill us up and make us feel satisfied. Some examples include:  

  • Fruit and cheese.
  • Fruit and nuts or nut butter.
  • Whole grain cracker and cheese.
  • Hard-boiled egg and fruit or a piece of whole grain toast.
  • Apple with nut or seed spread sprinkled with cocoa powder, cinnamon and coconut flakes.

Also, presentation can help to increase a child’s interest in healthy snacks. (Watch Melicent demonstrate a healthy, fun snack for kids on KING5.)

Mikeisha Brannock: When you’re planning snacks, don’t be afraid to utilize pre-packaged items, such as hummus or fruit cups. Crispy chickpeas and edamame, for example, carry an even dose of protein, carbohydrate and fat, so you don’t even have to pair them with anything.

Kim van Groos: Kids love snacks. I have a 6-year-old and all she does is eat snacks, but it can be very difficult to get kids to eat healthy ones. Have fresh fruits or vegetables easily available, prepped and ready to go. Cutting up your own apples in the morning, for instance, can help reduce prep time, and it’s cost effective. Things like low-fat string cheese are really simple for a child to eat, and they don’t require any prep for the parent.

What should be my priority when planning and preparing nutritious meals?

Smith: The first place I like to start with meal planning, especially for lunch and dinner, is making sure I have three components: a non-starchy vegetable or fruit, a protein, and a starchy vegetable or carbohydrate. And then I want to create a balanced plate with those components. Make half the plate non-starchy vegetables or fruits, a quarter of the plate protein, and the remaining quarter a starchy vegetable or carbohydrate.

Remember to include colors when meal planning; we should eat the rainbow! Make sure you have plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables and a lot of variety from day to day. You’re not going to eat every color of fruit and vegetable every day, but you want to try most days and over a week’s time to get all of those colors in.

Utilize your freezer and pantry if you are shopping less often. Keep frozen vegetables stocked and canned beans in the pantry. You may want to cook extra for lunches the next day, especially if everyone in your household is eating from home.

Van Groos: A simple, healthy diet technique is to use a smaller plate. This can help with portion sizes. Try to make half of that plate a fresh fruit or vegetable. That will naturally reduce the quantity of the less optimal things on your plate.

Brannock: If meal planning feels like a barrier because it takes a lot of time up front, focus on the fact that it will save you time throughout the week. So, if you spend three or four hours in the weekend prepping for the week, it will save you an hour every night for the rest of the week. It’s an investment in your time that pays off.

Learn more about Nutrition Services at Overlake.

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