Q: Healthy foods are important to our family, but a lot of the options for snacks with printed carb counts are highly processed foods. Can you give some healthful choices for snacks-on-the-go that have worked for your family?
A: With a growing 12-year-old daughter who is working hard to manage type 1 diabetes, we find it particularly difficult to handle snacks during the after-school hours. It's easy for her to come home feeling starved and quickly munch away on many uncounted carbohydrates and then head into dinnertime with high blood sugar. Consequently, we try to think about snacks as "mini-meals."
You may be surprised by the options available to your family if you decide to experiment with the idea of "mini-meals" versus snacks. For example, you can transform an after-school snack of munchies into a half-sandwich on whole grain bread and a piece of fruit. Or, a bowl of soup with cheese slices and fresh veggie sticks. This is often just the right amount of nourishment for our daughter before she heads off to dance class or jazz choir. We found that thinking about snacks as small meals encourages us to be more mindful of portion size and carb counting without the burden of too much preparation.
That said, sometimes a snack really is just a snack, and we've found some satisfying alternatives that work well for anywhere, anytime eating. When it's time for something quick, my daughter might eat an apple with a handful of nuts or a yogurt stick. We do enjoy a few other pre-packaged snacks, too, including snack-size bags of pop chips made from air-popped corn. My daughter likes them because they provide the satisfying crunch of chips, and we like them because they have a fraction of the fat and carbohydrates found in regular potato chips.
Where we run into the problems with snacking is on the weekends. Without the structure of school and work, it's easy for our meal schedule to go out the window. When it comes to enjoying popcorn during family movie night and other snacks on the weekend, we try to remember to put a serving of any snack in a bowl to better gauge portion size -- and then put the box or bag away! This trick has worked well to keep snacking habits healthy -- for all of us.
--Stefany Shaheen was the chair of the JDRF's 2011 Children's Congress and has a 12-year-old daughter with type 1 diabetes.
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