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How to Get Your Kids to Quit Junky Snacks

Kids never quit, do they? On the move, resourceful about getting and keeping the things they want, and one of the things they want, and just can’t seem to quit, is those sweets and salty treats.

Junky snacks, in fact, are the way of life in a sense. They are the traditional family/kid “guilty pleasure” at ballgames, county fairs, movies, barbeques and just about any other kind of outing you can think of – where they are cotton candy, popcorn, chips, marshmallows, and sodas.

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Instead of quitting, with all its negative connotations of being a “quitter,” how about encouraging your kids to be a winner, by adding some “Super Snacks” to their diets?

And forget about “cold turkey” – or in this case maybe that’s “Cold Jerky” – as in those god-awful SlimJims – think about slow beginnings that eventually get to the end. Start with a plan for reducing junk just 1 or 2 days a week.

Junk in the Trunk

Junky snacks pretty much fall into the sugary kinds and the salty ones. When it comes to sugar, sugary snacks for sure are at the root of a whole host of health problems in kids including obesity. Salty snacks also contribute to obesity, as well as other health problems such as kidney issues and high blood pressure. But, going “out with the bad, and in with the good,” may not be as difficult as you think. Here are some ways to “switch it up.”

The Dope on the Sweets

Instead of the cookies and candy bars, try frozen grapes, frozen bananas dipped into chocolate on a stick, frozen yogurts, or fruit bars that have fructose (not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, which should be avoided altogether). You can make your own sweet fresh fruit-frozen melon balls with yogurt dip – blend a yogurt fresh fruit shake the night before, freeze in ice cube trays, and pop out of the freezer before the kids get home.

On a grocery store trip, let kids be investigative reporters and pay attention to sugar content on the ingredient list of the snacks. It is listed as grams.  1 teaspoon of sugar equals a little more than 4 grams. So, you can help them divide the total grams on the package by 4 to get how many spoons of sugar they eat. The old traditional standby — round oat cereal with the hole in the middle — has 1 gram of sugar in a serving, while some sugary colorful ones have 12 grams. Some granola bars have 13 grams while others only 7 or 8 grams per bar. A single pop tart has 18 grams (about 10 teaspoons of sugar). Just imagine, taking your sugar bowl and shoving down 10 teaspoons into your mouth at once…gross right? Make your kids understand it’s that gross too!

Instead of the fruity, sugary pop tart, try a fun, healthy fruity cookie recipe with low sugar—preferably with the kids helping to make them.  Check out my “Tasty Tarts” recipe at the end of this column!

Chuck the Chips

When it comes to salty stuff, look for the low-fat, and non-trans fat choices. Pretzels in all forms and shapes are most often healthy choices. Rice crackers, rice chips are usually great, and if kids get more adventurous, a little mustard on the pretzels, or homemade hummus or guacamole dip for crackers are great. A handful of nuts—salty or semi-salted have healthy nutrients for not only kids but adults too!

Scientists have found that our brains are hardwired to crave salt and sugar. However, the needs of our ancient ancestors to replenish sweat and need sugary bursts of energy to bring down prey have long since passed. Now as responsible parents it up to you, and your kids to hunt for more nutritive food choices!

Try These Tasty Tarts


1 stick butter at room temp, ¼ cup sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 and 1/2 cups flour (can be unbleached white, or try adding some whole wheat pastry flour to the mix, ½ cup fruit juice sweetened jam, any flavor.

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add yolk and vanilla and mix until all blended. Add flour half at a time, mixing until smooth and you have dough. Pinch off pieces of dough about quarter size, roll into a ball, then put on a cookie sheet. Space them about 1 inch apart. Press your thumb in the ball’s center to make an indent—a little hole, but not all the way through!  Fill each indent with ½ teaspoon jam. Bake 10 minutes.

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