Obesity is quickly approaching tobacco as the number one cause of chronic disease. Massachusetts Department of Public Health statistics reveal that 10% of Massachusetts children aged 6-19 are overweight and another 17% are at risk of becoming overweight. Nationally the percentage of school-age overweight children has tripled since 1980. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight or obese adults, leading to costly and debilitating health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
Almost one quarter of children's daily energy intake comes from snacking between meals. Therefore, healthy snack choices can play an important part in helping your child maintain an ideal weight. Finding nutritious snacks that you and your child can agree on can be a challenge. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research offers the following tips for getting your child to eat healthy snacks:
Offer similar choices to your child, getting their input: for example, let them choose between celery and carrots, or pretzels and assorted nuts.
Offer variety: Choose a variety of snacks so your child doesn't get bored and reach for a fatty snack.
Be creative: Cut vegetables into shapes to make them more appealing. Health New England suggests "ants on a log" made of celery sticks with peanut butter or light cream cheese topped with raisins.
Expose your picky eater repeatedly to new foods: Try offering small portions of new foods with other familiar choices.
Look for snacks that are low in fat, sugar and sodium. Be aware that some seemingly nutritious snacks are not. Many granola bars are high in calories. Fruit roll-ups and fruit snacks are high in sugar and can lead to cavities. Good choices of snacks include:
- Any kind of fruit
- Vegetable sticks with low-fat dip or chunks of cheese
- Pretzels and nuts
- Cut up pieces of low-fat cheese
- Baked chips
- Whole-grain bagels
- Frozen juice bars
- Unbuttered Popcorn (for older children)
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Dry whole-grain cereal
Juice should be drunk in moderation. Although juice contains some healthy nutrients, it's high in calories. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children drink no more than two 6-ounce servings of fruit juice a day.
Health Plan Resources:
Health New England: HNE's Whiz Kid Series includes Seymour's Weight Loss Challenge, which teaches children how to manage their weight through an interactive 5-step physical activity and healthy eating program. Members can learn more about this program by logging onto Health New England's store website or calling 413-233-3079.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.