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Learning, growing can all start with healthy snack

It’s shocking that despite all the medical advances over the last century, today’s children are expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

A big contributor to this problem is poor nutrition, but it doesn’t have to be that way in your house. Feeding your kids healthier food provides them the nutrients they need to grow, develop and be healthier. When they are getting the nutrition they need, they are able to think and learn at a higher capacity.

Back-to-school time is your chance to shop smarter so your children can have their “best foot” forward this school year. I suggest that most parents start this process by slowly, but deliberately, changing the family’s taste buds. If your kids are eating a lot of processed, packaged snacks filled with artificial flavors, sugars and high-fructose corn syrup, it will be difficult to serve them a plate of fresh fruit or fresh vegetables and have them be excited about it.

Here are some healthy snacks that will help move your kids’ taste buds in the right direction and provide them with the nutrients they need to thrive:

Healthy Greek yogurt: Your best option here is to buy the plain, unflavored Greek yogurt and add your own flavor – fresh or frozen berries, a teaspoon of honey, bananas or chocolate chips. Adding the sweetness at home allows you to control how much sugar is in the yogurt. They’ll be getting the goodness of Greek yogurt without the food engineering of high-fructose corn syrup or loads of sugar in the flavored version. Your next best option here would be a pre-packaged brand like Wallaby or Stoneyfield that many times has smaller servings and includes less sugar than other options.

Healthy fruit snacks:If you think of fruit snacks and automatically think of something in a package, we have some work to do. The nutritional punch that fresh fruit has to offer your child’s growth and development cannot be matched. So, your best option is to cut up some fresh fruit: strawberries, kiwis and cantaloupe (all varieties count) and leave in the fridge for your child’s next quick, nutritious snack. Chopping the fruit and making it readily available in plain site will ensure it is consumed. Your next-best option would be fruit leather made solely from 100 percent fruit. This will be a much healthier option than the little bag of sugar-filled fruit impostors.

Healthy nut butters:All-natural nut butters are a FANTASTIC addition to your child’s healthy nutrition plan. If you grind a nut, you get its butter. The ingredients for these products should consist of only the nut and salt. PB&J will always be a child’s favorite; just make sure the “PB” is the healthiest version.

A new school year is a new opportunity to evaluate where you’re at with your family’s nutrition and health and be deliberate about making sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.