Healthy snacks for kids
Family Health

Healthy Pantry 101: Tips for Instilling Good Food Habits in Your Kids

You're the grocery decision-maker in your household, and you want to buy food for meals that your kids will love and snacks they'll look forward to after school. But you also want to be health-conscious and instill good food habits in your children. When your kids are begging for candy, what do you give them as a healthy alternative?

The best weapon is a well-stocked pantry with wholesome, healthy snacks that are easy to prepare and that will actually satisfy your kids, without the extra sugar and additives. Here are some great tips for choosing healthy staple foods, creating crowd-pleasing snacks, and even grocery shopping with your children.

Pantry Picks

Snacks don't need to come prepackaged from a plastic bag -- you can put together healthy treats from foods you have in your pantry and fridge. Here are a few staples to keep on hand:

  • Peanut butter. A classic snack ingredient, peanut butter is a great source of healthy fats and protein, and it's sure to keep your kids satisfied until dinner.
  • Canned tuna. Tuna is full of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a great base for an inspired snack. Go for versions packed in water instead of oil to cut down on extra calories.
  • Dried or canned beans. Beans are a great way to get your kids micronutrients and protein -- and they're inexpensive, too.
  • Frozen edamame. Whether your kids like to enjoy edamame hands-on in the shells or prefer them hidden in pasta or hummus, these little green soybeans are full of protein and fiber.
  • Eggs. The creative options are truly endless with eggs, and they're a great source of protein, vitamin D, and phosphorus.
  • Yogurt. Yogurt, Greek or otherwise, makes for a fantastic snack, as it provides filling protein and bone-strengthening calcium. Opt for plain yogurt so you can repurpose it as a sour-cream replacement for savory dishes, and add a little honey, fresh fruit, or jam for sweet snacks.
  • Honey. This natural treasure is a great way to add the sweetness that your kids crave while also providing some vitamins and minerals.
  • Pasta sauce. Keep a jar of this tomato-based sauce full of vitamins and minerals on hand so you can easily add flavor (without a lot of calories) to a savory dish.
  • Whole-wheat English muffins. Throw them in the freezer for whenever you need a base for a healthy snack full of fiber and micronutrients.

Snack Ideas

When coming up with creative snack ideas for your kids, make sure to include a protein source and a fruit or veggie for maximum satisfaction and nutrition. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Make a quick tuna salad with some celery or pickles for a little crunch, and serve it on a tuna melt with tomatoes or on crackers with lettuce slices.
  • Make a homemade hummus and serve it with veggies and pita chips. You don't need to stick with only chickpeas here -- try a black bean or edamame hummus or even a spinach-based version.
  • Cut up some celery, an apple, or a banana with peanut butter as a condiment.
  • Whip up some deviled eggs or an egg salad: You'd be surprised how many children love the creaminess and flavor of a tasty egg dish.
  • Drizzle yogurt, fruit, or granola parfait with a touch of honey for some natural sweetness.
  • Create an English muffin pizza with mushrooms and tomato sauce -- just like mini pizza rolls, minus the preservatives.
  • Make an easy sandwich of peanut butter, banana, and a bit of honey on a whole-wheat English muffin.

Grocery Shopping Tips

Now that you have some pantry and snack ideas, how do you manage your little one while you're purchasing all these items? Every child is different, but it can be helpful to set some ground rules prior to your grocery shopping trip to prevent yours from asking for every treat they see. For example, let your kids pick out one special treat before you check out if they behave, or let them select a piece of fruit or a bakery treat at the beginning of the trip to keep them occupied while you shop.

If you can make grocery shopping enjoyable for kids and provide them with healthy snacks and food options at home, you'll be well on your way to instilling positive food habits that will keep them nourished for years to come.

Posted in Family Health

Christina Manian is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally from the Boston area, she attended Boston University where she majored in nutritional sciences with a concentration in dietetics. She recently completed her nutrition education at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on medical nutrition therapy. While her background has mostly been in the clinical setting, Christina embraces wellness nutrition as the backbone of optimum health. She is excited to be able to educate a larger audience about nutrition through the written word.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.