Monday, September 5, 2011

Taming the Snack Monster

"Can I have a snack?" is a common phrase when you have children. It
doesn't matter how much they eat at meals, there is going to be a
request for snacking. This can become either a good habit, or it could
become a parent's worst nightmare. The deciding factor is in how you
prepare for it.

When you look around the stores, vending machines, and other venues
where snacks can be found, it is easy to find the fun snacks that kids
find so appealing. Snacks laden with high fructose corn syrup and
sodium are abundant. All are packaged in a way to draw the child's
attention. For many children, the idea of eating a healthy snack is
just plain boring. So, how does a parent handle this influx of junk
that the kids find so attractive?

It begins with you. There is no way that you will convince a child to
eat carrot sticks dipped in peanut butter if you are eating a sugar
coated snack cake or a bag of chips. Like every lesson in life that we
teach our children, the example should be given through our own
behavior. Let me give you a tip - kids will not respect the "do as I
say and not as I do" approach. While you may browbeat them into
obedience with that tactic, they will not respect it and your authority
over them can even be damaged. Now, this is not to say that there are
not times when you need that approach. One being when teaching them the
negative aspects of an addiction or other behavior that you worked hard
to overcome. In this instance though, getting a child to eat something
healthier than you are willing to eat is seldom effective.

We chose early to only allow healthy snacks at home. There are times
when unhealthy ones have been available, but not for long periods.
Snacks usually involve a fruit or vegetable. At times, the kids are
given more unhealthy choices when visiting others and even will bring
these snacks home after the visit. We don't toss them out. Rather, I
have started portioning the snack out into sandwich baggies and putting
them into a container. Once in a while, the kids are given one of these
baggies as a treat. Not everyday, but maybe a couple of times a week.
The snacks that I offer most days are much more healthy. Here is a
partial list of their favorites.

carrot sticks with a small amount of peanut butter mixed with a bit of
honey to dip the carrot sticks into
cottage cheese (our daughter especially loves this and asks for it quite
fresh fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, cantaloupe, and berries of all types)
dried fruits (I use these to mix up our own trail mixes)
celery sticks with peanut butter
cucumber slices (our daughter enjoys these dipped in ranch dressing)
cherry tomatoes

Whatever the snack we choose, we are trying to make it something
healthy. It is our hope that by providing the healthier options, the
children will learn to make wise choices themselves.

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