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February 05, 2008

When it comes to snacks, knowing what's best for kids and what's not is no easy matter, says Kim Sinclair, Healthy Eating - Healthy Action (HEHA) Programme Manager at the West Coast DHB.

"Most of us think that popcorn is an easy, light and healthy snack to give kids. Some types of popcorn are all of these things, but did you know that some pre-packaged microwave popcorn contains more fat than a Big Mac burger?

When it comes to giving kids snacks, don't just reach for the packets - that's the message from the West Coast DHB. "Instead try and choose simple, home-prepared snacks - that way you'll know what's in them," says Miss Sinclair. "For example popcorn made on a stove or in a popcorn maker is usually much better for kids, especially as you get to choose how much fat or sugar you add."

The focus on healthy snacking is part of a nationwide campaign running during February from the national healthy eating programme Feeding our Futures, which offers parents advice on how to achieve healthy diet for kids.

Popcorn is just one snack idea for kids being promoted but there are many others that can save parents time and money, made from everyday items found in the fridge or kitchen cupboard.  "Another great quick snack is a mini pizza - made using a half muffin or pita bread, topped with tomato puree, cheese, a few mushrooms and grilled - simple!" said Marta Dingle of Community & Public Health.

But once you've made the snacks how can you be sure your kids will eat them? "Try getting kids to help you prepare the snacks. If they've helped make them, they're more likely to want to try them." Snacks like banana smoothies or fruit kebabs are an easy, fast example that kids can have fun making. Or choose colourful snacks that are cut up into bit size pieces - like carrot sticks or cut up fruit.

According to a national survey, New Zealand children are snacking on more high-fat, high-sugar snacks then is good for them. Snacks like potato crisps, corn snacks and chips were consumed weekly by 93 percent of New Zealand kids. Biscuits were consumed weekly by 78 percent and but only 17 percent of children were eating popcorn weekly. (Source: 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey)

With less then half of New Zealand children eating fruit at least twice a day, and 57 percent  eating vegetables three or more times day, snacking on fruit and vegetables is also a great way of making sure kids are getting enough goodness in their diets. 

The message about snacking from Feeding our Futures is "make it quick, make it easy, make it fun."  They are offering parents lots of new ideas for tasty, quick, healthy snacks. For more ideas visit www.feedingourfamilies.org.nz

Top Snack Ideas for Kids

  1. Carrot and celery sticks with dip
  2. Hard boiled eggs
  3. Home-made popcorn
  4. Cherry tomatoes
  5. Mini muffins
  6. Crackers and cheese
  7. Cereal and milk
  8. Celery with peanut butter filling
  9. Pikelets
  10. Fruit bread
  11. Sliced apple

Healthy Snacks recipes: (photos available)

Crowded Canoes: Simple fun and tasty!

  1. Chop up sticks of celery
  2. Add a scoop of either peanut butter or cottage cheese
  3. Add a few raisins
  4. Add a few rice bubbles
  5. Enjoy!

Mini - Pizzas

  1. Take a half an english muffin or a pita bread
  2. Top with some tomato puree or a sliced tomato
  3. Grate cheese on top
  4. Add a few sliced mushrooms
  5. Grill until cheese is bubbling
  6. Enjoy!

Popcorn with sweet and spice topping

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan
  2. Add 1 cup of popping corn
  3. Cover the pan with a lid and shake over the heat to prevent browning
  4. Corn should be popped in 2 - 3 minutes
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and a 1/2 cup of sultanas after the corn has popped
  6. Enjoy!

For more information please contact

Kim Sinclair
Healthy Eating Healthy Action Project Manager
West Coast District Health Board
PO Box 387
Greymouth 7840
Ph 768 1308

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