Parents are in a serious pickle these days as they face the growing obesity epidemic among young Americans. The statistics are staggering. For example, the number of overweight children in the United States has almost doubled since the 1960s, according to a release from Del Monte, San Francisco. Today, 10% of 2- to 5-year olds and more than 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight, which not only puts them at risk for disease, but also contributes to low self-esteem.
“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that parents take the necessary steps to improve their children’s nutritional health and help to encourage smart eating habits,” said Julie Upton, nutritional and fitness expert, in the release. “Whether your child is a toddler or a teen, you can incorporate simple and healthy changes in their breakfast, lunch and snacks that will not only help them to lose weight, but encourage them to eat healthy throughout the year.”
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it “sets the nutritional tone for the rest of the day,” Upton added. To that end, she recommends a simple breakfast such as whole grain cereal with skim or low-fat milk, as well as fruits such as blueberries, apples and bananas.
In addition, Upton suggests substituting spinach and tomatoes for bread in sandwiches for lunch, and pickles instead of cookies and chips as healthy snacking alternatives.
Back to School … and Nature
September has arrived, and it’s time to start packing kids’ lunch boxes and brown bags with — if possible — great-tasting yet healthy snacks. The Madison, Wis.-based Back to Nature brand, owned by Kraft Foods, now offers single-serve varieties of its most popular natural and organic cookies and crackers for parents and children seeking on-the-go or portion-control products.
Consumers can choose from single-serve packs of the brand’s Mini Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Mini Classic Crème Cookies and Honey Graham Sticks, as well as single-serve packs of Crispy Cheddars and Crispy Wheats. Pack sizes range from 1 oz. to 1.25 oz. and retail for $2.99 to $4.99 at natural food stores and mainstream grocery stores nationwide. Back to Nature also offers multipacks of its classic favorites. All of the brand’s offerings are trans fat-free and contain no hydrogenated oils. For more information and products, visit www.backtonaturefoods.com.
According to Parents.com’s recent list, “The 20 Best Snacks for Kids,” there’s no reason what’s good for children can’t taste good, too. Selections include:
Peanut Butter. Try making PB&J sandwiches with mini waffles or rice cakes instead of bread.
Sweet-Potato Chips. Sweet spuds are packed with Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin B , Vitamin C and folate.
Hummus, served with pita triangles or salt-free crackers.
Cheese, served with salt-free pretzel sticks.
Healthy baked treats, such as banana bread, zucchini muffins and carrot bars.
Whole grain cereal, such as Barbara’s Bakery Multigrain Shredded Spoonfuls.
Quesadillas, made with the ever-popular tortilla.
Snack mix, such as a combination of nuts, pretzels, whole grain cereal, banana chips and popcorn.