During the school year, most children manage just fine with their packed lunch and snack. What I’ve noticed is once vacation time rolls around though, it seems like they eat non-stop. While it may be easy to turn to the convenient packaged snacks to keep them happy, most snacks are often loaded with sugar, salt, artificial colours, artificial flavours and preservatives. Plus, they are simply empty calories that will not make your child feel full. Here are a few solutions to ensure that this vacation is not a snacking free-for-all.
Make sure meals
Oftentimes children (and adults) reach for a snack because their last meal did not fully satisfy them. Aim for your children to eat a balanced meal that contains protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy-fat and fruits or vegetables so that their growing bodies get the required nutrients. Be mindful of what the children are snacking on and when they are snacking, so that it does not impact their appetite for the next meal. It is easy to get caught in a cycle where snacking affects their meal and then they need more snacks later in the day.
Keep them busy
During the vacation, some children are more active, so their bodies may need additional fuel. Others are less active, spending more time watching television and playing video games and they may snack out of boredom. So ensure that you keep their bodies and minds active with various activities, sports, crafts and games.
Make sure they are hydrated
Sometimes thirst can be disguised as hunger so make sure your children are drinking sufficient water throughout the day. To keep it interesting they can create their own infused waters using seasonal fruit, cucumber, mint leaves or ginger. Homemade popsicles, smoothies or slushies with fresh fruit and veggies are healthy and hydrating options. You can easily turn making these into fun activities with your children.
Keep healthy snacks
available and accessible
Children will more likely choose to eat a healthy snack, when the healthy snacks are easily accessible. Have a basket of fresh fruit on the counter, keep chopped fruit and veggies at eye level in the fridge so it’s the first thing they will see when they go rummaging for a snack and make sure to place the packaged snacks out of sight in the furthest corner of the pantry. You can also serve healthy snacks when they are likely to be hungry. You can serve veggies (like carrots, cucumber, celery and sweet pepper) with assorted dips (ranch, hummus or cheese) or stovetop popcorn.
Think of snacks
as a mini-meal
Although snacks are just a stopgap between meals, they can still be nutritious. Use the snacks to balance out your children’s diet so if they did not have enough healthy fat, you can serve bananas or apples with nut butter. If they didn’t get enough protein in their last meal you can serve up some meatballs or roasted chickpeas. If you want to get in a few more veggies you can try a cucumber chow or chips with a fresh tomato salsa.
Let them help
prepare the snacks
The best way to get your children interested in eating healthy snacks is if they are involved in making them. You can prepare some make ahead items like frozen yogurt bites, energy balls, oatmeal raisin cookies, banana bread or custom trail mix. Each child could create his or her own option by varying ingredients, adding chocolate chips or even sprinkles to make it more child-friendly. This also teaches valuable life skills and it means that you will not be spending the entire vacation making snacks on demand.
Your children have worked hard throughout the school year, so this is the time for them to relax and have fun. While they can have treats, it is not an excuse for them to overeat junk food. You can use this time as an opportunity to teach your children about healthy choices while creating life-long memories around healthy food.