Getting my seven year old daughter to choose to eat fruits with meals has been a challenge since she was eating solid foods as a toddler. While she has always loved vegetables, she never showed an interest in fruits. Until we started making snacking fun and getting her involved in the prep, she wouldn’t choose a fruit if there were other options available. Determined to give her balanced meals, we’ve spent the last few years involving her in the kitchen preparing snacks and meals. She thinks she is learning to cook; we think she is learning how to prepare food and make smart snack choices. Parenting isn’t easy but with just a few tricks up our sleeves, we are smarter and better. Teaching smart snack choices for kids doesn’t have to be a struggle when it’s fun for the entire family. My partnership with the Valley of the Sun United Way as a Hungry for Change Community Advocate has our family talking a lot about teaching healthy habits to promote the benefits of food services versus fast and inexpensive meal choices. We realize not all familes have the ability to teach smart snack choices for kids and sometimes, families with food insecurity concerns in their homes do not know how to prepare fresh vegetables and fruits for snacks and meals. Turning meal prep into a fun family activity helps build relationships, confidence in the kitchen and promotes healthy habits.
Instead of asking my children, “what do you want to eat?”, I provide options on a plate for them to explore their creativity. By not providing the ability to ask for sugar or processed snacks, I’m empowering them to make smart snack choices. Most fruits and veggies make excellent snack wands for children. My daughter enjoys making wands with color patterns and sometimes shapes using favorite fruits and veggies cut with a cookie cutter. The cookie cutters in our kitchen don’t offer versatility as we truly only have a handful of shapes, but they are different each time depending on the fruits and veggies we have available.
Fruit and Veggie Wand tutorial
- Wooden skewers or popsicle sticks
- Fruits and veggies of your choice
Fruit and veggie wand tip: for smaller children, use popsicle sticks instead of skewers with sharp ends.
Sometimes I have my daughter’s identified favorites for the fruit wands. Other times I use fruits and veggies she is unfamiliar with to get her excited to try new options. By placing the options on a table for her selection, she is able to get creative with the wands.
In addition to fruit wands, my daughter loves getting creative with ingredient combinations and TRISCUIT crackers. The whole grain wheat crackers make an excellent base to combinations like cheddar and tomatoes or cream cheese and strawberries.
Not all parents have the education or resources available to teach their children to make smart snack choices. Some families do not have the means to provide food at all. As a community, we can work together to make sure our children are able to focus in the classroom with a balanced breakfast. Arizona ranks third in the country for high food insecurity rates. This means we have children in the classroom every single day wondering when and where they will see their next meal. Seeing my own daughter light up with excitement at the offer of a watermelon fruit wand, it’s a sad realization some of her classmates never get that same opportunity at home.
Learn more about why I’m working to make a difference with Breakfast in the Classroom.
What can you do to help?
Donate, learn, and share. Every dollar helps but your support and help building awareness is equally valuable. As a community, we have the ability to work together to end child hunger with breakfast in the classroom. Maybe it’s not your child in need of breakfast but maybe your child’s best friend is facing food insecurity and you don’t even know it. We already know one of every four children in Arizona face hunger everyday. Lets all work together to change the statistics and help create a safe learning environment for our next community leaders.
Learn more about my partnership with Valley of the Sun United Way and their partner Edward Jones by connecting with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Follow along the #UnitedWeGive conversation and join the conversation with all nine of the Hungry for Change community advocates.
Do you have a favorite go-to smart snack choices for kids?