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Why it's OK for your kids to go nuts

                               

Dear Dr. Blonz,
When they're at home from school or camp, my two children always yearn for less-than-quality fare, such as sugary junk -- snack chips accompanied by a can of soda. If I am to believe my children, this is what they get at their friends' houses. I keep trying to get them to eat more fruit, and it works to some degree, but I need some suggestions that will satisfy their hunger and be nutritious at the same time. I know that fruit is ideal, but it is difficult to get them to go in that direction. I'm considering trying nuts as a snack, but I am concerned because they are so high in fat. What is your opinion? MQ. San Diego, Calif.

Dear MQ,
Snacks are an ever-present fixture. When we have neither the time nor the desire to sit down and have a full meal, we tend to satisfy our hunger with a quick bite. As inevitable as these occurrences are, most of us fail to plan ahead and find ourselves at the mercy of whatever's available in a vending machine or at a fast-food outlet. It is important that the we have alternatives on hand.

Fruit is a great first thought, and as fresh fruit comes into season, do a sampling, such as at a farmers' market or a produce store that provides samples. Get your children to have those flavors in their brains when they feel those hunger pangs. Then, with the fruits right there in front of them in the refrigerator, the arm reaches out and the connection gets made.

Another great sell for fruit has to do with, of all things, composting. Most snack foods come with excess packaging that ends up clogging the landfill. Fruit peels and pits go back to nature, making it a feel-good enterprise all around. Having a compost pile is an excellent education tool. There is an excellent site on composting at compost.css.cornell.edu/CIC.html, and it includes a link to Cornell University's booklet titled "Composting in the Classroom."

Nuts are a great alternative. They are definitely a more healthful choice than French fries, chips, candy, cookies, pastries and the like. They are high in fat, but that's not the whole story. They're a whole food that's versatile, they taste good, and they pack a variety of nutrients. In nature, the nut serves as the energy savings account for the plant. This energy reserve must be sufficient to fuel the sprouting and growth of the seed until the new plant can begin to grow and produce energy on its own. The key, however, is that the plant also places chemical guardians to keep the fats from being destroyed. When you eat the nut, you get the entire package.

Nuts can help satisfy the sometimes insatiable energy demands of growing children. They can be added to morning cereal and make a great lunch-box or after-school treat. It's definitely OK for them to go nuts at snack time. But don't wait for the snacking urge to strike. Plan ahead and stash some nuts in your office, your bag or your car. When you are with your children and hunger strikes, reach for the nuts. By doing so, you take control of the cravings and set a good example that they can follow when they're on their own.


Dr Blonz Do you have a question that involves nutrition, health and wellness? Dr. Ed Blonz holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in nutrition, and has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of nutrition, foods and health. He is the author of eight books and writes the nationally syndicated column, "On Nutrition," available through Universal Press Syndicate.

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Copyright Ed Blonz, Ph.D.