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Healthy Snacks

With the lovely weather and back to school acquiring and evaluating snacks is first on my mind.

With increased national focus on health and sensible eating, I still find that all I want is to offer healthy food alternatives to my kids. All summer long it has been crackers and candy vs. meals and I feel like a broken record: "No, crackers are a snack. You need real food." I search for the right words to explain to my 5 year old who’s helpfulness at acquiring "food" has alerted my two year old to the enticing options. Of course the ensuing two-year-old tantrum is endured and thankfully brief.

Truth is when faced with chips or carrots (better yet ice cream) I throw a mini tantrum myself. If I wasn’t confident that eating healthy is a priority I would give in as well.

(ARA) When grocery shopping, it’s important to plan in advance, keeping snack time in mind. The following five tips for keeping after-school snack time healthy can help us all get started:

1. Be creative. Use cookie cutters to cut fruit into fun shapes, or engage kids by having them help make fruit or vegetable kabobs.

2. Stock your fridge (and freezer) sensibly. Make it easy for kids to eat healthy by avoiding the junk food aisle all together.

3. Try a twist on the traditional. Frozen grapes or a banana dipped in peanut butter are more likely to tempt kids’ taste buds than a simple celery or carrot stick.

4. Lead by example. If your eating habits are unhealthy, it’s likely that your kids’ will be the same way. Make smart food choices and they will too.

5. Keep the options open. Give children a variety of choices to show them that there are many ways to eat healthy, tasty food. This prevents food boredom and will encourage them to make smart snack decisions on their own.

Bypassing the junk food aisle and heading to the produce section is always a good idea. But you might be surprised to know that there are a variety of healthy alternatives in the frozen aisle, too. There is an increasing number of healthy frozen foods geared specifically toward kids’ tastebuds. Dr. Praeger’s Littles, for example, are all natural, bite-size veggie pancakes that come in fun-shaped broccoli, potato, sweet potato and spinach varieties. Parents pressed for time can pop them in the oven for a quick and nutrient-rich snack perfect for fueling kids’ brains and bodies for an after-school sports practice or homework session.

"Parents should see snack time as an opportunity to teach kids to make smart health decisions," says Dr. Peter Praeger, a practicing cardiac surgeon and founder of Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods. "If kids start eating good-for-you foods early in life, they’re very likely to take healthy eating habits into adulthood." Courtesy of ARAcontent

On your next trip to the supermarket, consider incorporating healthy after-school snacks into your meal planning, including healthy frozen food options for kids. I’ve been surprised to see how quickly my kids learn that healthy food is important. They even tell others what good food is and that it can be tasty, too.

There are a variety of recipes on myMotherLode.com to inspire you, visit our recipe archive.