Most kids need nutrient-rich carbohydrates, such as starchy vegetables and whole grains, for energy and good health. Limiting your child's carb intake of healthy carbs to help him lose weight isn't necessary and could leave him deficient in certain nutrients. Of course replacing nutritionally-void, carb-heavy snacks such as soda and sweets with healthy low-carb options could be a positive step. Your doctor might also restrict your child's carbohydrate intake to manage diabetes or a condition such as epilepsy.
This means chips, granola bars, snack crackers and pudding are off the menu at snack time. Even healthy options like dried fruit and low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt contain more carbs than many medically-necessary low-carb regimens allow. Your child doesn't have to starve between meals, though. Many satisfying low-carb and kid-friendly options are available.
Meat, poultry, seafood and eggs are all essentially carb free but provide protein, which your child needs for proper growth. While a rib-eye steak isn't really a practical snack for a kid, a pouch of water-packed tuna, a hard-boiled egg or a handful of steamed shrimp all work between meals.Some kids might even enjoy snacking on a few slices of bacon between meals. If your child needs something to stash in his backpack, beef jerky or a low-fat mozzarella cheese stick are portable options.
For a fun, no-carb treat, stack a thin slice of cheddar cheese on a piece of deli meat -- such as ham or turkey breast -- roll up and slice into pinwheels. Secure each with a toothpick for easy eating.
Kid-Friendly Low-Carb Vegetable Snacks
Many veggies that kids love, such as corn and carrots, tend to be higher in carbs and not suitable as low-carb snacks. But, sliced cucumbers, pepper strips, romaine leaves and raw broccoli contain fewer than 3 grams of carbs per serving. They might be a tough sell if offered plain, but pair them with a dip made with cream cheese and chives for less than 1 gram of carbohydrate per 2 tablespoons. Alternatively, mash avocado with a pinch of salt and lime juice for about 2 grams of net carbs per half cup. Dip spears of jicama or celery for a low-carb chip substitute. With about 6 grams of net carbs per 2-tablespoon serving, peanut butter makes a classic treat spread on celery ribs.
Sweet Low-Carb Treats
Most kids crave sweets, but sugar is a high-carb ingredient. Offer berries with stevia- or Splenda-sweetened whipped cream instead, which has about 2 grams of carbs per serving. One-half cup of strawberries, blackberries or raspberries has less than 5 net grams of carbs per serving. Net carbs are figured by taking a food's total carb content and subtracting the grams of fiber. For example, 1/2 cup of raspberries has 7 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber, so 7 - 4 = 3 grams of net carbs.
Small servings of honeydew melon or cantaloupe also offer a bite of something rather sweet and juicy. Each has fewer than 4 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup.
Depending on your child's carb restrictions, he might be able to afford 1/2 cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt, sweetened with Splenda or stevia, for about 3.5 grams of carbs.
Low-Carb Crunchy Eats
If your child craves something crunchy, offer nuts and seeds for a natural snack. Roasted walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts have fewer than 3 grams of net carbs per ounce, and hulled sunflower seeds have just 1 gram per tablespoon. Avoid any nuts with a sugary or caramel coating, which drives up the carb count considerably.
Cheese crackers don't have to be off the menu either. You'll just have to make your own by placing tablespoon-size mounds of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on a well-oiled baking sheet. Place in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 4 minutes until they appear lightly browned and lacy. Remove from the oven, cool completely and let your child enjoy the savory, nutty and nearly no-carb snacks.
- Children's Healthcare of Atlanta: Pediatric Ketogenic Diet
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Is a Low-Carb Diet Safe for Kids?
- Atkins: Phase 1 -- Induction
- HealthAliciousNess: Mozzarella, Walnuts, Peanut Butter
- USDA: Nutrition Facts Raspberries
- Atkins Diet: Phase 2 Acceptable Foods
- What's Cooking America: Parmesan Crisps