One of the things I really look forward to each summer is our grandchildren’s vacation away from their parents. They spend this time with their grandparents in Hinesville and seem as equally excited to be here as we are to have them. It’s also a wonderful bonding time for “the cousins” — as they call themselves.
In addition to signing up for daily rotating “jobs,” they plan their own activities, menus and snacks. I find this particularly amusing because they are stricter about snacks than I would be, and the daily lifeguard oversees a workout session each morning that I’m very thankful I don’t have to participate in. Laps are around the pool and not just across it.
What makes these visits particularly nice is that I never have to play referee. If there ever is a problem, they immediately have court and decide what happens to that person, and I’ve never known for this to happen more than once a summer.
Snacks are an important part of a child’s daily diet and should be given some thought before you go out and buy a bunch of little packs of cookies and candy. Most children receive at least one-fourth of their daily calories from snacks, and these can contribute to weight problems.
Children need to eat more than three times a day because they are growing and active. The important thing is to create snack options that will fill them up, provide good fuel for activities and don’t interfere with their next meal. This especially is important during the school year.
Children are like many adults. When they arrive home “starving,” they grab whatever is easiest, and it doesn’t really matter to them whether they chomped down on a healthy food option or one of the worst possible junk foods. Their mind-set, like that of many adults, is “I want what I want when I want it,” not what is best for their bodies in the long run. This philosophy has helped create millions of adults and children who are obese and prime candidates for chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The first goal of a snack is to combine two food groups, like protein and carbohydrate, while the second is to invest in foods that your child likes and that are good for them.
There obviously is no point in getting healthy snacks that you know your child won’t eat. But snack time can be the ideal time to try out foods that are similar — and maybe healthier — to others they already like. Success can be assured when they are allowed to help pick out their snacks.
When possible, take children to the grocery store and let them participate in selections. Offer choices while limiting their options to healthy snack foods, especially those high in fiber.
For the greatest variety of nutrients, try incorporating whole grains, fruits, vegetables or beans into your kids’ snack-eating plan. Get a combination of ready-to-eat items, snacks that are simple to put together and ingredients that you can make ahead for special treats.
Ideas for make-ahead treats
• Banana pops — Peel a banana and dip it in yogurt, then roll in crushed breakfast cereal and freeze.
• Sandwich cutouts — Using cookie cutters with fun shapes, like dinosaurs, stars and hearts, cut slices of cheese, meat and whole-grain bread. Then put them together to make fun sandwiches. Eat the edges, too.
• Peanut butter balls — Mix peanut butter and bran or corn flakes in a bowl. Shape them into balls and roll them in crushed graham crackers.
Treats that are simple to make
• A bean burrito made with low-fat cheese and refried beans on corn or whole-wheat tortillas. Microwave until hot and add salsa and lettuce
• Fruit shakeups — put 1/2 cup low-fat fruit yogurt over 1/2 cup cold fruit
• Pudding shakes — Mix 1/2 cup cold milk with 3 tablespoons of instant pudding in a non-breakable, covered container. Make sure the lid is tight. Shake it up and pour into a bowl.
Selections that are easy to eat
• Fresh fruit — Keep it on the counter or in the refrigerator. Remember, the more colorful the fruit and vegetables, the more nutrients it contains. Medium-sized apples and pears pack about 100 calories each while a medium orange is around 65 calories.
• Cereal bars — Check the nutrition label on cereal bars and choose ones with the highest percentage of nutrients per serving for your child’s health while limiting sugar content.
Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.