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Kids' Snacks Can Be Healthy and Inexpensive
Date:1/25/2012

d serve water and a banana or apple slices and water, and the snack had the same calorie count at a lower cost. The whole fruit has the added nutritional benefits of fiber and helping kids feel fuller, longer than juice, Mozaffarian said.

Or, for example, water and cheese is less expensive than serving chocolate milk, and the cheese contains less sugar.

Other areas where Ys could make improvements without adding to cost were substituting whole grains, in foods such as Triscuits, Wheat Thins and Cheerios, for refined grains such as graham crackers and Saltines.

And while snacks that included canned or frozen vegetables were on the pricy side, snacks including fresh vegetables, such as carrots and celery, were not.

The study is in the February issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Some YMCAs in low-income areas are reimbursed by the federal government for snacks at a rate of 74 cents per snack per child. Using this as a target number, researchers identified a dozen healthy snack combinations that fall under that price. Those include: carrots, hummus and water; apples, cheese slices, water; whole wheat bread, green peppers, turkey slices, water; Craisins (dried cranberry snacks), string cheese, Wheat Thins, water; and applesauce, popcorn, 1 percent milk, water.

Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, called the study "well-conducted." However, the five criteria used to determine what qualifies as a healthy snack option aren't as comprehensive as she would like.

For example, tortilla chips count as a whole grain and therefore meet the criteria for a healthy snack option, but they're also full of saturated fat, which may contribute to heart disease over the long term.

Applesauce counts as a fruit, but it would be better if the guidelines specified that the after-school programs choose applesauce without added sugar, she said.

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