Making healthy snack choices for you and your kids can be the toughest food decision you'll make all day. We asked Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D., author of "The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss," and founder of the nutrition and lifestyle Web site SkinnyAndTheCity.com, for her favorite nutritious snacks. Here, the mom of three shares 10 delicious recipes for fiber-and protein-rich snacks that will keep you and your little ones full without any of the junk.
3 bananas6 Popsicle sticks1/4 cup natural peanut butter, softened 1/4 cup chopped peanuts or walnuts, granola, crispy rice cereal, or sunflower seeds
- How: Peel the bananas. Cut them in half, widthwise, and push a Popsicle stick through the cut end of each half. Spread peanut butter on the bananas, and then roll them in the nuts, cereal, or seeds. Wrap them in waxed paper and freeze for three hours.
- Why: A single pop contains 16 percent of the recommended daily dietary-fiber intake for an adult. The potassium content of the bananas can help reduce bloating in mom, while the peanut butter and nuts or seeds provide fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
12 spritzes of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spray1 tablespoon dry taco-seasoning mix (or parmesan cheese, cinnamon and sugar, or nutritional yeast)1 bag of low-fat or fat-free popcorn
- How: Pop the popcorn in the microwave according to the instructions. Empty the popcorn into a large bowl and spritz with butter spray. Sprinkle on your topping of choice and toss the popcorn until it's thoroughly seasoned.
- Why: Microwave popcorn like Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop minis or Jolly Time Healthy Pop minis have about 100 calories, two grams of fat, and five grams of fiber per bag. Popcorn also contains the amino acid known as serotonin, which can boost feelings of happiness and calmness. Children under age 4 should avoid eating popcorn because it's a choking hazard.
Veggies and Dip
- How: Prepare your own ranch dip with low-fat plain Greek-style yogurt and ranch seasonings. Or, for sour-cream-and-onion dip, mix nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt (such as Fage 0%) with one packet Lipton's Onion Soup Mix.
- Why: Kids love anything that requires their hands to be moving, so dipping is always a favorite. Carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, pepper slices, and cherry tomatoes will disappear in an instant if there's a tub of dip to go with them.
- How: Slice whole-wheat pitas in half. Let the kids smear on a bit of jarred tomato sauce, sprinkle it lightly with shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese, and top it with chopped vegetables (for an additional fiber boost) and a little bit of precooked chicken. Heat for a few minutes in the toaster oven or microwave until the cheese is melted.
- Why: No kid can resist pizza! Pizza doesn't have to be laden with fat—it can be a perfectly healthy snack. Not only will this snack allow you to feel full on few calories, but, according to a study in the April issue of the research journal Obesity, low-fat dairy products can boost weight-loss efforts.
- How: For a healthy update to this old favorite, use half of a Thomas' Light English Muffin, which is filled with hearty whole grains, fiber, and protein. Use only one tablespoon of peanut butter. Polaner makes delicious sugar-free jellies, and they also have an all-natural line, if sugar-free isn't your thing.
- Why: Peanut butter is a healthy monounsaturated fat that not only lowers cholesterol but also slows down digestion to help keep you feeling satisfied until dinner.
Healthy Trail Mix
- How: Mix whole-wheat pretzels, wheat Chex, Craisins or raisins, chocolate chips, and nuts (optional) together.
- Why: Kids love this sweet and crunchy mix of ingredients that's high in energy-boosting protein.
Gnu Flavor and Fiber bars
- How: Pick them up online or at stores nationwide.
- Why: Thank goodness for energy bars! They're a convenient, prepackaged, preportioned, mess-free, portable snack. But beware: Many of these "energy bars," although marketed as healthy, are simply glorified candy bars. Gnu Flavor and Fiber bars are one of your best options. Gnu bars have less than 150 calories and three grams of fat, but contain 12 grams of fiber — nearly half of the daily recommendation for adults.
- How: For the mom version, combine 1/2 cup Fiber One cereal with Fage 0% Total Greek Yogurt and honey. For the kid version, combine 1/2 cup Fiber One Caramel Delight (or cereal with at least five grams of fiber a serving) with any lowfat yogurt.
- Why: Although it's often thought of as a healthy, fiber-rich food, granola only contains a measly two grams of fiber and is usually loaded with calories and sugar. Swapping granola for Fiber One not only saves you over 100 calories but provides you with a whopping 14 grams of fiber in a half cup. Mixing this cereal into Greek yogurt, which contains 18 grams of protein, will fill you up without filling you out. Kids love cereal because it's bite-size and crunchy, and if you choose the brands with the highest amounts of fiber and whole grains, they'll be getting a lot more nutrition than they'll ever realize. And the calcium in the yogurt makes teeth and bones strong.
- How: In a bowl, combine one individual-size container of Jell-O lowfat chocolate pudding with one cup of sliced strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.
- Why: How many of us are guilty of indulging in sweet desserts? Some of our favorite ice cream treats have as many calories as an adult should eat in a day. For the same amount of calories, you can have 10 of these fudgy low-cal treats. Plus, pudding is a great source of calcium. Paired with strawberries, which are packed with fiber, this treat will curb any craving.
Baked Potato Fries
- How: Spray calorie-free nonstick cooking spray in a roasting pan. Slice the potatoes and add salt and pepper and any seasonings you like.
- Why: French fries are one of the most beloved foods in America, but a typical serving of French fries can contain about 600 calories. Leave the skins on because they provide all the essential nutrients, like potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and even protein. For a metabolism kick (spicy foods have been shown to temporarily increase metabolism) and a taste kids will love, try making spicy fries with a dash of cayenne pepper, garlic, and onion powder.