While food companies still target our youth with unhealthy products, many advertising companies are now placing an emphasis on eating healthy, organic snacks. Dr. Julie Griffin Stewart offers some great recommendations on how we can help our kids eat right between meals and maintain a healthy lifestyle as they grow.

“A good way for parents to think about the diet for their children and overall nutrition is offering the right foods at the right time. We do know that snacks can keep the younger children from getting hungry, especially when it’s still 30 minutes before dinner and they’re really hungry. That’s a good time for an apple or a half of a banana, but not the cupcake.”

“We do know that they want little rewards and want to be able to enjoy birthday cake on certain occasions, but we really want them to focus on healthy snacks such as lean proteins, including yogurt and milk, apples with peanut butter, that kind of thing more than the bags of chips, cookies or crackers that they can get.”

Dr. Stewart emphasizes the importance of pairing carbohydrates with a healthy fat, rather than giving our children a bag of chips or cookies that will only spike their blood sugar levels.

“The way that God made our foods, fruits and vegetables, is it pairs the carbohydrate along with the fiber, and that slows the digestion so that it doesn’t spike our blood sugars. Certainly when we pair the apples with peanut butter, the healthy fat along with the fiber from the apple, that will keep the kids fuller for longer, and also gets them the healthy vitamins and minerals that they need to grow.”

As adults, we have heard that we should be eating smaller meals throughout the day, rather than eating large portions. Dr. Stewart says that while it may work for adults, it’s necessarily the case for kids.

“We’d rather them not snack or graze all day long because then the kids don’t figure out when they’re truly hungry. One of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight in childhood is for them to know when they are hungry and need to eat a certain portion. Teaching them good portion control as they grow is healthier than just letting them snack all through the day, even if it’s healthy snacking.”

Dr. Stewart says it’s okay to give our kids a snack when they get home from school or if they want a bedtime snack, just as long as we are giving them a lean protein or a healthy fruit or vegetable.

Julie Stewart, MD, MPH, is board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics and currently practices at Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas in Pittsburg, Kansas, the largest community health center in the state of Kansas. She is the medical director of the addiction treatment service at Community Health Center implementing medication assisted therapy for patients dealing with addiction.

Raising healthy kids