Preventing Childhood Obesity: Creative Snacking Beats Hunger and Boredom
Pantry to fridge, pantry to fridge, back and forth like a tragically trapped animal.
"There's nothing to eeeeat!"
If your kids are interpreting their summer boredom as hunger, give them some creative snack preparation projects to overcome "refrigerator gaze."
You've probably noticed yourself that half of summer's reported hunger is as easily resolved with activity as it is with food. So, you can clobber two problems at once if you let the kids prepare their own snacks. If they really are hungry, they can busy themselves with preparation, and then they'll have something yummy to eat afterwards. And if they're not really hungry, at least they've enjoyed a little diversion, and their treats will wait until they're ready.
The more of an active role kids have in actually choosing and creating their snacks and meals, the more aware they'll become as food consumers, and this is a great way in preventing childhood obesity. It is also increasingly important today, with food marketing full of whiz-bang and clever advertising language that could make a brick sound healthy and delicious. But studies show that when kids are presented with healthy options, they will very often eat more nutritious selections over junk food, especially if they have a hand in the choices and preparation.
And with this cool collection of options, they can. The idea with most of these snacks is not to give kids just something to eat, but something to do, and a hands-on role in their food choices, planning and preparation.
Gelatin is always a favorite summer snack food, and as long as your kids (or you) can handle the boiling water part, you can pretty much cut them loose with a box of gelatin and their imagination.
By using sugar-free gelatin, you can also cut out some of the calories at the front end to make room for the caloric freight of the additions. Have the kids think about what they get out of that trade-off. So, what can they add? Of course, most canned and fresh fruits are great in a JELL-O mold, but so are grated carrots, radishes, beets and cabbage. Sliced celery and nuts and raisins are reliable favorites. Layering and setting "stacked" gelatin molds can really draw out the creative process, especially if you throw a little milk into part of your gelatin to get pastel colors. Other indulgences: gummy worms or gummy fish tucked into slightly set gelatin in a round glass bowl, and you've got an edible aquarium.
But if you can get them to try some adventurous eating, real fish--like tuna or salmon--with chopped celery and olives in unflavored gelatin made with lemony tomato juice can be a fun challenge. It's more of a texture sensation than a new flavor for most kids, so it might not be as hard a sell as you'd imagine.
And you can get a lot of mileage out of that texture if you capitalize on it. Remember that just by adding an envelope of plain gelatin to any of these concoctions and gelling it in a non-metal cake pan rather than a bowl, you can end up with finger-friendly, wiggly, bouncy fun food that's still deliciously nutritious.
For a colder chill, simply freezing bits of fruit can offer a variety of refreshing finger foods. Let the kids cut up different fruits, sprinkle them with cinnamon or nutmeg for a little variety, and freeze them right up. Or for a fancier treat, dip them lightly in yogurt, then granola or crushed cereal or graham cracker crumbs.