A new survey by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) says that many children are skipping meals and eating more snacks. The ADA polled kids age 8 - 17 and their parents and found that most children did not eat breakfast and about a quarter of them didn`t eat dinner. Snacks are often eaten instead of these meals.
An ADA press release notes that breakfast is sometimes missed by 42 percent of white and Hispanic children, and 59 percent of black children. Breakfast is rarely or never eaten by 12 percent of white and Hispanic children, and 18 percent of black children. The survey also found that dinner is not regularly eaten by 22 percent of white children, 34 percent of black children and 38 percent of Hispanic children. Three percent of white children and 5 percent of black and Hispanic children say dinner is rarely or never eaten.
According to the survey, snacks are often eaten to replace skipped meals. Over 56 percent of white children, 57 percent of black children and 59 percent of Hispanic children reported snacking immediately after school. Regular evening or after dinner snacking was reported by 24 to 26 percent of all the children. Snacking in front of the television was reported as happening often or always by about 23 percent of white kids, 30 percent of black kids and nearly 24 percent of Hispanic kids.
Missing meals can limit children`s access to vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients critical to youngsters` development and overall health. But kids` snacks provide parents with the opportunity to offer nutrient-rich items to supplement missed meals, and provide quality nutrition. Registered Dietitian Elizabeth Pivonka has tips for making sure your kids` snacks are as nutritious as possible.
Pivonka says that fruits and vegetables should always be the first option when offering kids a snack.
"Fruits and vegetables are nutrition powerhouses," says Pivonka. "They`re naturally low in calories and provide needed fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies may help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers. Everyone can benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables and most kids, not to mention adults, aren`t eating enough of them."
Here are Pivonka`s Top 10 fruit and veggie snack ideas for kids:
- Smoothies made with fresh or frozen fruit
- Canned fruit or single serve fruit cups
- Small boxes of raisins
- Baby carrots, bell pepper strips, or broccoli and cauliflower florets with low-fat dressing or hummus for dipping
- Fresh fruit dipped in low-fat yogurt or applesauce or with a dab of peanut butter
- A glass of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice
- Celery sticks filled with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese
- Mashed avocado spread on a slice of whole grain toast
- Homemade trail mix filled with their favorite dried fruits like raisins, apricots, cranberries, and banana or apple slices
- Any whole piece of fruit they enjoy like a banana, apple, pear, peach, or whichever is their favorite
"Always keep fruit and vegetable snacks in an area of the refrigerator that`s visible and easily accessible or out on the counter, and don`t buy other, less healthy, options or store them out of reach so that kids can grab healthy snacks themselves when they get hungry," adds Pivonka.
The Fruits & Veggies-More Matters® website, www.FruitsandVeggiesMoreMatters.org, has many more tips for adding healthy fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks along with advice on how to get kids to eat more of them. It also features a recipe database with over 1,000 recipes, many of which can be made in 30 minutes or less. There`s even a section of kid-friendly recipes designed specifically to appeal to, and be prepared by, children. While you`re online, check out www.FoodChamps.org. It`s a website built for kids where they can have fun while learning about fruits and vegetables and good nutrition. For more information about the ADA study, read their online press release.