Excess carbohydrates, specifically the refined carbs found in white bread and sugary snacks, are one of the leading causes of child obesity. You don't need to rely on those packaged goodies to satisfy your child's cravings between meals. Several make-at-home snacks take just minutes to prepare, are naturally rich in protein and low in carbs, and come with tantalizing flavors and textures that will catch any child's interest. You may even find yourself nibbling on these snacks yourself.
Eggs are high in protein, low in carbs and don't lead to the spike in blood sugar that can cause more food cravings. You can make hard-boiled eggs in batches and store them in your fridge for several days, ready whenever your child needs a snack. Or, make a batch of omelets, add other healthy items such as fiber-rich spinach, shredded cheese --- a great source of bone-building calcium --- and antioxidant-rich tomatoes, then cut into single kid-sized servings and store in your refrigerator. Take a tip from classically trained chefs who know you need to boost the flavor in cold dishes: stir a dash of seasoning mix or a packet of dip mix into the egg mixture for omelet snacks that are tasty without reheating.
Serious Cereal Sundaes
Plain Greek yogurt comes with high amounts of protein and calcium without the tartness of traditional plain yogurt. Use it to make a kid-approved low-carb cereal sundae, recommends Lisa Cohn, a New York City medical nutritionist. "Layer the yogurt with whole-grain cereal and nuts or seeds," said Cohn, then top with some dark chocolate chips. As an alternative to yogurt, try ricotta cheese or cottage cheese. They are filling and nutritious while appealing to kids with almost dessert-like taste.
Make a low-carb, high-protein roll-up sandwich using deli meats, such as turkey or roast beef. Simply layer a slice of your child's favorite cheese on top of a slice of deli meat and roll the entire contraption together. Roll in some mayo or creamy dressing, too, if desired. You can also sneak in some filling fiber by adding lettuce or a few spinach leaves. Make a bunch of these roll-ups and portion them out into plastic baggies so you have ready-to-go snacks for car trips.
Funny Fruits and Veggies
"Kids like things their own size," said registered dietitian Jill Weisenberger, "so offer fruits and veggies in miniature and make them cute." Think grapes, baby carrots --- lightly steamed to enhance their natural, low-carb sweetness --- and pears cut into tiny slivers. Up the protein ante by offering a companion dip, such as creamy ranch dip, hummus or a nut butter like almond butter. For just a few more minutes of your time, you can make an even more creative snack. "Slice an apple into a circle," suggested Weisenberger, "and add eyes and a mouth with raisins.Then, glue them together with peanut butter."
- National University of Health Sciences: Moderate Low-Carb Diets for Kids is Okay
- Joslin Diabetes Center: The Best Kinds of Low-Carb Snacks
- "Today's Parent"; Protein Power; Madeleine Greey; September 2006
- Lisa Cohn, RD; Founder, Park Avenue Nutrition; New York City, NY
- Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD; Jill Weisenberger Health Communications; Yorktown, VA
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images