Getting kids to eat healthy foods is hard enough, without throwing blood sugar and carb counts into the mix; when you are looking for diabetic snacks for kids, planning meals can become so challenging. Sometimes I wonder how my kids can manage to get satisfied on like, 2 bites of a sandwich, but they do! Healthy diabetic snacks for kids can be fun and exciting, though, and by choosing colorful, fun foods, you can encourage your little one to eat a balanced and healthy diet without making them eat foods they don’t enjoy. The following tips and list of snacks will help you win the battle for healthy snacking.
Tips for Choosing Diabetic Snacks for Kids
1. Make it Fun
Whether you have a picky kid or an easy eater, your kid may sometimes feel limited by the types of diabetic snacks they can eat. Everyone, not just kids, enjoys foods that are colorful and enjoyable to look at. Get some cute kabob sticks like in the photo and skewer all kinds of fun snacks on them. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes in fruits and breads. Opt for foods that are bright and colorful, such as fruits and vegetables, and serve multiple colors together. You can also use food dye (look for the safe stuff made from natural ingredients) to color foods. My three-year old son loves to pick a color to dye his scrambled eggs. They look awful to me and I can’t get past the funky colors, but he gobbles them up.
2. Opt for Whole Grains
Whole grains are always a healthier choice when it comes to breads, crackers and rice. They typically contain more fiber than their refined alternatives, which helps maintain blood sugar levels. Some whole grains can still be high in carbohydrate, like brown rice. While it is good for you, it needs to be worked into a larger meal and offset by high protein and fiber. While we’re talking about it, did you know brown rice lowers the risk of diabetes? Even those who do not have diabetes should opt for whole grains over refined – they’re just plain better for you.
3. Variety, Variety, Variety
While some of us don’t mind eating the same thing day in and day out (I won’t tell you how many days in a row I’ve had scrambled eggs and hash browns for breakfast now), kids are easily bored with the same foods, especially if they aren’t particularly fond of them in the first place. Make each diabetic snack for your kids something different to help them avoid burnout. I’m not saying you can’t repeat a snack every couple of days, but at least provide different choices throughout the day. Try to break up the food groups too. If you feed celery and peanut butter for the morning snack, offer some veggies for the afternoon snack.
4. Make it a Fruit or a Vegetable
Snacks should always be about one or the other. Fruits and veggies are packed full of critical vitamins and nutrients, and the more variety you offer, the more chances at getting good nutrition they have. Try not to get stuck in a rut of giving your kid the same fruits and veggies every day, unless they’re just in love with that particular food this week. Expanding their choices helps them discover new foods to enjoy and gives you more options when planning diabetic snacks in the future.
5. Keep Ready to Eat Diabetic Snacks Available
When we get back from a shopping trip and I’m feeling overly ambitious, I’ll sit right down and start cutting up fruits and veggies to store in individual containers in the fridge. This helps me more than the kids, but it gives us some quick and easy snack ideas for times when preparation is just too much of a hassle. Carrots and celery both store well, as do melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew. Older kids can help themselves and it’s a snap to dish up a serving for a toddler. We also keep a little container of peanut butter just for dipping. That way the little guys can grab it and dip their celery without getting any unmentionables in the big tub of peanut butter.
6. Focus on Protein and Fiber
Fruits and vegetables both have plenty of fiber, while meats and cheeses are packed with protein. Both protein and fiber act to slow down the absorption of sugars and maintain a healthier blood sugar level. Always feed protein when you’re offering your kids carbs, so go for snacks like cheese and crackers, fruits with cheese or peanut butter with celery. Protein is essential for growth, too, so it should be an important part of any kid’s diet.
9 Healthy Diabetic Snacks for Kids
1. Fruit & Cheese Kabobs
Use toothpicks or kabob skewers and put together some different fruits such as apples, bananas and grapes, along with small chunks of cheese. These are fun to eat, bright and colorful and easy for little hands to hold onto. Just watch that the younger kids don’t end up poking their mouths.
2. Cheese and Meat Rolls
Lunch meats and sliced cheese are a great high-protein snack, plus they’re fun to eat. Ham and cheddar, turkey and provolone or swiss with pepperoni all make great combos. Poke ’em with a toothpick and voila! – finger food!
3. Ants on a Log
This is such a classic snack for kids, but it also happens to be low carb. Smear peanut butter inside celery sticks, then decorate them with raisins. Kids love to eat these and get a giggle out of the “ants”.
4. Bananas with Peanut Butter
This is still one of my favorite snacks. If you’re talented, you can smear the peanut butter on one side of a banana cut in half lengthwise, or you can go for the easy route and just let the kids dip bananas into a bowl of peanut butter.
5. Pizza Stackers
Take some whole grain crackers, pepperoni, cheddar cheese and olives…throw them together and you’ve got instant pizza! My son eats so much pepperoni it’s a wonder he doesn’t get a bellyache. High protein foods like meats and cheeses are essentially free foods so you can encourage them to eat as much as they’d like without having to worry about blood sugar levels.
6. Yogurt with Granola
Yogurt is just such a good food, packed with probiotics and proteins. It makes an excellent diabetic snack for kids all on its own, but you can give it a little bit of a whole grain kick by adding granola. Look for lower carb granolas that focus on fruits and nuts, or you can make your own granola at home from ingredients of your choosing.
7. Mixed Nuts with Raisins aka Trail Mix
Most commercial trail mixes have sweets in them and may not be the best choice for diabetic snacks, but you can easily mix up your own trail mix. The benefits of making your own are that you use only foods you know your kids like, and you save a ton of money because you’re not paying for the convenience of having it premixed. Nuts are incredibly healthy, with plenty of fiber and protein and hardly any carbs. I just picked up some smokehouse flavored almonds at Costco the other day, and it was all the whole family could do to not eat them all at once. Throw in little bits of dried fruits to add a healthy, fiber-filled sweet to your trail mix.
8. Low Carb Quesadillas
You can buy low carb tortillas at any grocery store. Even better, you can find white corn tortillas in some stores – these have the lowest carbs for tortillas. Shred up some cheese, chop up veggies like green peppers, onions and olives, then make a sandwich with the tortillas. Fry lightly in olive oil until the cheese is melted, cut into slices like a pizza and your kids will probably gobble them up. Mine sure do. Quesadillas are versatile – you can put all kinds of your favorite meats, cheeses and vegetables in them to make them just how your kids like.
9. Popcorn with Parmesan
Popcorn is every kid’s favorite food, or it should be. And you should like it too, since it only has 6 grams of carbs for a whole cup! Air pop it in a popper or on the stove with a little oil, then generously sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese. Add a seasoning like Nature’s Seasons, table salt, or our favorite, garlic salt with parsley.
While it may take a little more thought, you can easily make up some healthy diabetic snacks for kids that they will really enjoy, without making them feel cheated out of taste.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laundry/5590365927/