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.
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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.
Good nutrition and eating habits start at an early age. A healthy diet is essential to provide your child with the nutrients she needs for proper growth and development. As a parent, trying to get your child to eat healthy foods can be stressful. You can help your children by understanding healthy meal and snack options and by setting a good example. The challenge is to make healthy foods appealing while ensuring your child's diet is nutritious and wholesome.
The Importance of Snacks
Children are constantly growing and using energy. Between school, family activities, after school functions, sporting events, homework and other daily activities, children are busy. They need energy to keep them going; being hungry is natural. Snacking is a good way to satisfy their hunger and provide them with essential nutrients their bodies need. You should provide your child with food that satisfies his hunger and boosts his energy level. Moderation is essential to healthy snacking.
Healthy Snack Options
The key to healthy snacking is keeping your refrigerator and pantry stocked. For example, low-fat milk, yogurt, chicken, lean meat, hummus, eggs and cheese are high-protein, calcium-rich snacks to keep in your refrigerator. Whole-wheat crackers, pitas, trail mix, nuts and granola are vitamin-rich foods to have on hand in your cupboards. Packed with phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, fruit and vegetables are healthy snack selections. Combining foods from different food groups make nutritious and delicious snacks. Try whole-grain pitas with hummus, apple slices and cheese, cottage cheese topped with fruit, celery and peanut butter, homemade trail mix, yogurt with granola or fruit smoothies.
The key to a happy, healthy dinner is having regular meal times and not being a short-order cook. Dinner time is a family time; everyone should eat the same thing at the same time. You do not need to cook something different for each of your children. Children are often hungry before dinner is ready. Set out carrot sticks, cucumber slices or celery for them to munch on. It is important to involve your children in food preparation, make them a part of the meal and let them choose which foods they want to try. Dinner time does not have to be a battleground.
Healthy Meal Ideas
At meals, it is a good idea to give your children milk as it is high in calcium, vitamin D and protein. Aside from lean meat, poultry, fish, beans and legumes, which are high in protein, children typically like chili, soups or stews which blend different ingredients. These foods are excellent sources of protein and vegetables. Children also like tacos, wraps, or other foods which allow them to make their own dinner. Serving a variety of healthy foods with meals will increase your child's overall nutrient intake. Healthy options include salads, fruit, whole grains, legumes, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and cooked vegetables.
The best way for you to encourage health eating is to eat well yourself. Your child's impulse to imitate is strong. You need to be a role model to help shape your child's health and nutrition habits. When your child asks to taste what you are eating, your plate should be filled with healthy selections. You should eat what you want your child to eat because your actions override your good intentions. Serving appropriate portions, not overeating and having a positive attitude toward food will help your child understand the importance of good nutrition.
- 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