Tips for Parents

Revamping Your Family's Snack Habits

By Susan Magsamen, SVP Early Learning

My son always wants starchy snacks like crackers and cookies. How can I get him to snack on fruits and vegetables?

Rare is the child who chooses to snack on cherry tomatoes. Your son’s preference for cookies and crackers is not unusual, and is probably part biological, part cultural. Such snacks deliver plenty of salt and sugar, which humans crave, and they are also heavily marketed, readily available, and easy to serve. Lots of kids grow up eating them because they are so pervasive, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Revamping your family’s snack habits can actually be fun, and very worthwhile.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) created a new food icon, MyPlate, to guide Americans toward healthy food choices. Fill half your plate at every meal with fruits and vegetables, say dietary experts. Devote ¼ of the plate to complex carbohydrates such as rice or pasta, and another ¼ of the plate to lean meat, beans, or some other source of protein.

Easier said than done, you say. It can happen, though, by following these strategies:

1.  Surprise your son. Get in an extra serving of fruit by adding it to his cereal. Make trail mix that includes a handful of chocolate chips, but dried fruits and nuts as well. Let him pick vegetables at the grocery, then name them after him! Peter may proudly eat the snap peas if you announce them as “Peter’s snap peas.” No kidding.

2. Make food fun. Be creative in the kitchen together, and let him make his own snacks. Then he might eat them! Smart snacks can be fun, too. Spread a piece of toast with peanut butter, then add blueberry “eyes,” a carrot “nose,” and a strawberry “mouth.” Delicious and cute.

3. Be patient but persistent. Place colorful, clean, easy-to-eat fruits and vegetables at your son’s eye level in the refrigerator. Keep serving them at meal and snack times, too. Your son’s taste buds will come around. It may take a dozen tries before you get a single bite of a new food, though, so be patient!

4. Last but not least, go easy on yourself. You’re still a good parent if you occasionally serve chips. Just pledge to try fruit-and-veggie snacks or healthy “food art” a few times a week, and good things will come of it.

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