Helping children make healthy choices

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling, and Katers

Meal and snack times provide a time to encourage healthy habits and conversation. When wise snacking is added to three nutritious meals a day, adults can achieve the total recommended daily guidelines for healthy American children.


Over 27 percent of American children’s daily calories come from snacking also known as grazing. This snacking doesn’t have to be bad. It could be something you had planned to offer at mealtime anyway as part of the five basic groups on a plate: about half fruits and vegetables, half grains and protein, and a glass milk or yogurt.

This plan of including tasty fruit and vegetable snacks is especially useful if fruits and vegetables are often left on the plate or a big point of contention at mealtime.

A snack that satisfies hunger might be cut up fruits and vegetables like oranges, bananas, pears, apples, or frozen peas with just a small amount of cereal or crackers. Add a little cheese, yogurt,or small piece of turkey. You may want to replace crackers with whole grain bread pieces, pockets or wraps and a little peanut butter (check with your physician). Recommendations are five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Three meals plus three nutritious snacks (including one at bedtime) meet the nutritional guidelines.

Another suggestion is to provide water or milk during mealtimes and snacks rather than juice or soda. Drinking water rather than soda is cheaper; it is caffeine and sweetener free and will become a habit.

Creative nutrition

Families can make substitutions to add nutrition. If children like fries you might substitute easy homemade carrot or sweet potato fries that kids can help make. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cut carrots or sweet potatoes into strips about ½” x ½” x 3″. Toss with olive oil and place on a sprayed tin foil. Cook for 10 minutes, flip, and cook for about 10 more minutes. Watch closely. Some people like parmesan sprinkled on top before eating.

Nutritionists suggest eating a small snack and drinking water or milk with your children. Have your snack at the kitchen table rather in front of the TV, phone, or computer. Play a game of “I Spy” in the room or go through the alphabet thinking of foods or animals that begin with a letter. Older children can practice naming the states and math facts.

Raw carrots can be creative, too. They can be dipped in ranch dressing, hummus, or spread with nut butter. They can be cut into coins to make cheese sandwiches or peeled to make a plate of curly ribbons. Shredded carrots can also be added to mac and cheese, quesadillas, or taco meat, and cooked.

For more see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com; wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons; Facebook, and Pinterest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.