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Are your kids getting bored with apple slices and Goldfish crackers? Check out these five fun, nutritious ideas for mid-afternoon munching.
Fruit kabobs. Make fruit fun again by threading halved strawberries, halved grapes and small chunks of pineapple and melon on a frilly toothpick, suggests Liz Weiss, coauthor of No Whine with Dinner. (They’re great for kids age 4 and up -- for younger kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cutting food into bite-size pieces no larger than ½ inch). Pump up the nutritional quotient even more with cubes of low-fat cheese or baked chicken.
A "milkshake" (really, it's a smoothie). Build the perfect smoothie with 100 percent fruit juice, low-fat yogurt, some banana and frozen fruit (strawberries, mangoes, blueberries). The immune-boosting, disease-preventing benefits of the antioxidants in fruit paired with the calcium and protein in yogurt make this sip a winner for a hungry tot who thinks he’s drinking a milkshake (wink, wink). And adding a scoop of ground flaxseed can boost omega 3 consumption, which plays a role in eye and brain development.
Go-to guacamole. Avocado provides a good concentration of calories, plus antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats that help kids’ bodies absorb the vitamins in veggies. To make, just mash an avocado (kids can help!) and add diced tomatoes or a spoonful of salsa and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve it with baked tortilla chips, pita bread, bell pepper sticks, carrots or sugar snap peas. (You can even make a fun face on the dip by adding two cucumber slices and two pimento-stuffed olives for eyes and bending two chives into the shape of a mouth.)
Super-fast sorbet. The benefits of frozen fruit: it's already cut and washed -- and if you puree it you can make an easy, yummy soft-serve sorbet. Any frozen fruit will do, but Missy Lapine, author of The Sneaky Chef, likes raspberry with a little pomegranate juice (add a little sugar to take down the tart taste). Though it’s pure carbohydrates, it doesn’t cause a spike and crash like other simple carb treats. The reason: Raspberries are one of the highest fiber foods available, says Lapine.
Cheese stick dippers. Upgrade ho-hum cheese sticks with this fun twist from Jennifer Carden, author of The Toddler Café: Fast Recipes and Fun Ways to Feed Even the Pickiest Eater. Pour one (or more) of the following ingredients into small dishes and place on a plate with the cheese: Sesame seeds, applesauce, crushed tortilla chips, crackers or Goldfish crackers. Says Carden: “It teaches the kids about different textures, colors, and tastes -- and they can double dip all they want!"