Picking out healthy snacks for kids can be a daunting challenge, especially at the beginning of the school year when you have had the whole summer to cook lunches at home that everyone can eat right away, rather than hoping that it will stay fresh in their lunchbox throughout half the day.
Below are several key things that you should keep in mind when picking out healthy snacks for kids, and what you can do to help them make their own healthy choices in the future:
Flavor is a Must-Have
Flavor is king in a child’s mind. They might not have the refined tastes you do as an adult, but everything is new and exciting to them. Depending on the kid, they might be more sensitive to “gross-tasting” healthy snack foods, which tend to have a different texture or slightly different taste than their junk food alternatives. This is especially true for kids who have a taste for junk food and are learning to cope with the household change towards healthier foods.
Help Them Feel in Control
An important part of packing your child’s lunches is keeping them involved in the process so they can learn from your example. Help them feel in control of their dietary choices by presenting several healthy snacks to them and asking them which ones they would like to have in their lunch boxes.
Since they are choosing from a set of snacks you present, rather than letting their imagination run wild, they will be more likely to choose the one they are really interested in. This will help them feel less opposed to healthy eating as they get older as well, as they are enabled to make their own healthy and responsible choices.
Don’t Sacrifice Texture
While the flavor is the most important factor in choosing a snack, texture also plays a critical role in how likely kids are to enjoy a snack.
Keep in mind that the texture you enjoy might not be the texture they enjoy. You may enjoy crunchy snacks, like a nutty candy bar, while they might prefer softer, goopier snacks like apple sauce. Kids’ experience of taste and texture are very different from our own, but if you know what your child generally enjoys, you can find healthy snacks to keep them satisfied.
Keep up the Variety
If they open their lunch to find the same old flavors several days in a row, your kids are more likely to start trading lunches with the other kids at school. Once that happens, you have no more control over what they eat during the day.
Most kids love variety and would prefer to change up even one element of their school lunches every day or every other day. This change does not have to be drastic – in fact, it can be as simple as swapping a package of honey mustard Youtopia Snacks with a package of Bananas for Chocolate. The different flavors will appeal to their exploratory senses.
If you’re not sure if this is the right move for your kid, ask them. Their choices should be limited to healthy snacks on hand and can be as simple as asking if they want a different lunch, or if they want the same lunch they had before.
Add a Healthy Treat
Never be afraid to add a tasty treat in their lunchbox. The fear of food is never conducive to a healthy relationship with food but knowing how to responsibly make choices and how to satisfy cravings in healthier ways will help set an example.
This means that you can pack something small and sweet without going overboard, and it is always wise to try healthy alternatives to their favorite junk foods. Whether it’s a juice drink or a chocolate square, your kids are sure to enjoy the treat – and yes, that means you can pack a small treat for yourself, too!
Follow Your Example
You are setting an example by packing your kids’ lunch with healthy snack foods, but they need to see you eating healthier as well. If your kids are around when you pack lunches for the day, try asking them what you should have for your lunch. If they tell you to pack junky snacks, you can refuse gently by telling them it hurts your tummy, or that you want something that will keep you full.
This is a fun way to keep them involved, make them feel like their voice matters, and, as a bonus, it keeps you accountable for eating healthier.