While feeding kids can be a challenge in itself, making sure that what they’re eating is nutritious is a different ballgame altogether. It also doesn’t help when your children have a penchant for snacking or love sweet treats and desserts more than anything.
For Cara Kho-Martinez, Sharm Miguel-Macalua, and Cherrie Magbanua, members of the Smart Parenting Mom Network, the struggle to get the kids to snack on healthy food is real.
Cara says she doesn’t want her daughter, Hailey, 4, to get used to eating sweets. “I’ve seen what it can do to people, from obesity to different kinds of diseases. As they get older, it’s going to be harder to control their food intake,” she explains.
For Sharm, keeping her 3 1/2-year-old son Kiefer’s sugar intake in check is a priority because both she and her husband have a family history of diabetes. “I try to be really careful with what to give my kids. I always check the label [of the products I buy] and compare the sugar level of products,” the mom says.
Cherrie, for her part, says that while sugar does have its benefits, “too much of something is not beneficial for our health, for our child’s health.” This is why she has always been mindful of 4-year-old daughter Zuri’s diet.
So how did these three moms solve this snacking dilemma? By taking matters into their own hands and creating homemade versions of their children’s favorite snacks and treats! Check out their easy yet creative ideas.
Fresh fruits are your friend
Don’t underestimate the power of fresh fruits! According to Cara and Sharm, fruits can be a life-saver when your kids have a sweet tooth.
Cara’s daughter, Hailey, loves longan, pomelo, banana, orange, and grapes. “We make sure to include them in our grocery list. [We] serve it to [her] after a meal or as snacks, when [she is] craving some sweets,” she says.
Kiefer, Sharm’s son, prefers bananas, grapes, apples, and oranges. The mom says that one way to make fruits more appealing is by turning them into a fruit salad or cutting them up into fun shapes.
“I usually make a fruit salad with [jelly],” she says. “[At] para maging exciting ang snacks nila, I make bento-style snacks para ganahan kumain ang mga kids.”
Air-frying is the way to go
If your kids like fried snacks like chips or fries, one way to make them healthier is by making them at home using an air fryer.
Sharm recommends making sweet kamote fries using an air fryer. This way, you can control what ingredients are used when creating your child’s merienda.
“I’m happy to say that my son loves snacking on healthy food because I prepare the food for him,” she adds.
Smoothies and shakes go a long way
Cherrie suggests making your own fresh fruit shakes or smoothies at home and even turning this into a bonding and learning activity for your child.
“For our fresh fruit smoothie, I allow Zuri to peel, cut, mash, slice into cubes, or mix them with yogurt and milk for a creamier delight,” the mom says.
“Kids tend to be more curious and interested if they see fun shapes and colors in their food,” says Cherrie, who is also an early childhood educator.
“They’ll be eager to talk about [the food] as they enjoy eating [them]. If they can join the prepping for easy tasks, much better since they see and do the process.”
Homemade sweets and desserts are great
Another way to control kids’ sugar intake is by creating your own versions of their favorite desserts.
“Hailey has a sweet tooth, which she got from me,” said Cara, noting that ice cream is one particular favorite of her daughter. So, the mom thought, why not make that at home?
“As a bonding [activity] and [a] treat, we make our own ice cream! In that way, mas controlled and alam namin yung nakahalo sa ice cream.”
For Sharm, even little sweets like pastillas can be made healthier when you make it at home. She says she uses her child’s growing-up powdered milk to make this milky confectionary for her son.
DIY pita sandwiches for more fun
For heftier kid-friendly merienda, Cherrie says she and her daughter would often make rolled pita sandwiches.
“For our rolled pita, with all the ingredients on their individual plate, I let Zuri make her own snack by arranging sliced cucumber, cheese, chicken strips, egg, onions, lettuce, and finally, squeeze in some of her favorite dressing,” the mom explains.
“In this manner, [Zuri] does not only develop the habit of recognizing and eating healthy snacks but also learning how to make them in a fun and easy way.”
The three moms also note that together with feeding kids healthier snacks, parents should again do the following:
- Practice discipline: “Discipline is key,” Cara said. “It is tough to discipline them, especially when they are cute ‘di ba? Better to control it now than regret later. Control means limit lang naman, and it doesn’t mean ‘Do not allow.’”
- Teach kids about nutrition: “Make it a point to educate [your child] about the healthy main ingredient that’s central to the product like the banana in turon or the mango in the shake,” Sharm said. “It’s a great way to get [them] to like fruits.”
- Model good eating habits: “Being conscious of the products we buy from the supermarket could be a good start,” Cherrie said. “As parents, we are our kids’ first role model. If we want them to eat healthy [food], we must develop a habit as a family, a healthy lifestyle at home.”
Take note, moms, it's also important to keep any sugar intake — yes, even from fruits and juices — in moderation. This means limiting the quantity or amounts of servings of these types of food and drinks.
Nestlé's nutritionist recommends limiting the amounts of the following per child (age 3 to 5) per day:
- 1 glass of fresh fruit juice
- 1 to 2 servings of fresh fruits
- 7 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 to 2 servings of dessert
Here's what Aleli Magtibay, a registered nutritionist and dietitian, has to say about managing children's sugar intake. Watch this:
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