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July 23, 2012

Simple tips for helping kids choose after-school snacks

How to stop binges on high-calorie foods

Stopping at a convenience store on the way home or hanging out with friends, a child, the after-school eating machine, probably isn’t making the most healthful choices.

A typical snack, such as a 150-calorie bag of chips washed down by a 135-calorie cola, doesn’t contribute nutrients to a child’s food intake. Add those empty calories to a child’s daily food intake and he likely could be consuming too much.

This concerns health experts.

Childhood obesity more than tripled between 1980 and 2008, when close to 20 percent of children age 8 to 11 met the definition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

Being obese puts a child at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and high blood pressure, according to the CDC.

Although parents can’t always be around to monitor what a child is eating, one can teach a child better habits by having appropriate snacks available and by being a good role model.

Explain that snacking should take the edge off a child’s hunger, but not ruin his appetite for dinner, says Malena Perdomo, registered dietitian, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Chicago.

In fact, a snack is probably more modest than either you or your child assume.

Aim for healthful food with fewer than 100 calories, less than 3 grams total fat and no more than 8 grams of sugar, says Teresa Quattrin, M.D. chair, department of pediatrics, University of New York at Buffalo.

(Girls, ages 9 to 13, who aren’t physically active, can have 130 calories of discretionary foods, such as snacks, in their daily intake of 1600 calories; boys in the same condition can have 195 calories of their 1800 daily calories, according to MyPyramid.gov from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

Go shopping as a family to find options kids will enjoy.

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