Thoughtful Parenting: What makes a good snack?

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A common concern for parents is choosing healthy snacks for them and their children while adding enough variety so the kids don’t get bored. A tool developed by the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is a research-based snack rating system that calculates nutrient density in snack foods.

The Snackwise nutrition rating system is easy to use. All you need to do is type the information from the snack’s nutrition label into the Snackwise calculator and Snackwise determines the nutrient density and rates the snacks as:

■ Green — best choice

■ Yellow — choose occasionally

■ Red — choose rarely

Snackwise evaluates a snack food using 11 nutrition parameters: calories, total fat, saturated and trans fat, sodium, sugar, protein, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Snackwise is free to use at www.snackwise.org, and many common packaged snacks already are evaluated. For example, Life cereal (single serving) is rated as green, a Nature Valley granola bar (maple brown sugar) is rated as a yellow and a Keebler Fudge Stripe cookie is rated as red.

Of course, fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list of green choices. For a little more variety, serve the fruits and veggies with healthy dips such as hummus, salsa, cream cheese, peanut butter or other protein-based foods. Clean and cut up fresh veggies in advance so the family can grab and go. Mix fruits and veggies with other snack foods such as pretzels, or mix cold cereal with raisins. Use “stealth” methods to disguise the fruit or veggie in snacks your child already enjoys and they never will know it. For example, add spinach or kale to a smoothie. For some added fun, cut fruits and veggies into new shapes and sizes.

We have commonly used “treat” and “dessert” to refer to high-sugar and high-fat foods. Yet we know the best way to “treat” your body is to give it the vitamins and minerals needed to support healthy growth and development and, for optimal immune function, a diet rich in fruits and veggies. Use “treat” in a new way with your family — let them know their healthy snack is their “treat” for the day!

For more information about Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0, visit www.letsgo.org, friend us on Facebook at LiveWellNWCO or contact Barb Parnell, LiveWell Northwest Colorado community coordinator, at livewellbparnell@gmail.com. LiveWell Northwest Colorado partners with First Impressions of Routt County to ensure all young children have access to healthy food and health education materials.

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