September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. It happens to also be “Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month” and “Whole Grains Month” -this is perfect as all of these go hand in hand. The childhood obesity epidemic in America is a national health crisis. Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. To help your children and family develop healthy eating habits, it is important to provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products. Here are some snack ideas to help add vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products into your child’s diet:
- Peel a banana and dip it in low-fat yogurt. Roll in crushed cereal and freeze. You can also try this recipe with crushed nuts, raisins and granola for some variety.
- Alternate layers of low-fat pudding or yogurt and fruit in a tall glass or parfait cup to make a sky-high fabulous fruit parfait. Top with crushed graham crackers or vanilla wafers for some added crunch and sweetness. Find some fun looking dishes and spoons to enjoy this delicious treat.
- Pizza can be fun and healthy with the right ingredients and a great way to encourage your child to try some new vegetables. Use whole-wheat tortilla wraps or pita pockets as the crust. Add sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese and as many veggies as you can pile on. To make it even more fun, let them make faces on their pizzas!
- Microwave a small baked potato and top with salsa and low-fat cheese for a quick and easy afternoon pick-me-up. Add some diced chicken, beans or lean ground beef and serve with a bowl of soup or side salad and this tasty snack can become a filling meal for the whole family to enjoy.
Laura Gibofsky, MS, RD, CSP, CDN, is a nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery.