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Choose healthy snacks for your kids

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Back to school means less time at home, more activities and finding time for homework, chores and family time. Back to school also means planning healthy meals, lunches and snacks for your family.

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Follow Choose My Plate guidelines to make sure your children get all the variety they need. According to USDA guidelines, your child's plate should contain about half fruits and vegetables and half grains and proteins with a little dairy on the side.

Your kids should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. Although many toddlers are picky eaters, most will eat fruit. Fruit is the perfect snack for kids of all ages. It doesn't take a lot of time to prepare; just tuck a banana, apple or orange in your child's lunchbox or put a few berries or grapes into a baggie or container for an afternoon snack at school or home.

Here are some snacks that help kids go from being picky eaters to choosing healthy snacks. Mix up some berries to make a berry salad. Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries taste great together. Serve with cream cheese dip to add a little fun.

Bananas are favorites of many kids from toddlers to teens. If your child isn't a banana lover, try making banana muffins or banana bread instead. Add some yogurt to slices of bananas to make a yummy dessert-like fruit snack.

Melons are more fun to eat when you use a melon baller instead of cutting into cubes or slices. Instead of a whole apple, slice apples into slices and serve with peanut butter for dipping for a school day treat your child will love.

Grapes are good but frozen grapes are even better. Freeze them in snack sized baggies and pop a bag into your child's lunch. Your child can easily pull out a bag from the freezer for after-school snacking.

Your child may also love oranges cut into segments, pears, plums, peaches and nectarines. Mix a couple of fruits together and serve in a fancy dessert cup or thread berries and chunks of other fruits onto grilling skewers for your child to enjoy.

Although veggies are great for kids, some picky eaters don't want to try them. Make veggies more fun by using a potato peeler to peel cucumbers into swirls instead of just plain old slices.

Pick up a bag of carrot chips in the fresh food section of your local grocery store. Your child will find them more fun to eat than plain carrot sticks. Add a little ranch dip for a healthy snack kids will love.

Visit your local farmer's market to find fresh fruits and veggies. Red and yellow peppers are sweeter than green peppers. Cut them into long slices and put into snack sized baggies for a snack on the go. Spread celery sticks with peanut butter and add raisins to make ants on a log, a favorite snack for kids to pack in their lunchboxes.

Kids are more likely to eat foods they help prepare. Let your child help shop with you and prepare lunches and snacks. Proteins and grains are easy to combine into healthy snacks. Toast a muffin half and spread with peanut butter for a quick treat.

Your child will smile and say "cheese" when there are cheese cubes, cheese sticks or cheese slices in the fridge after school. Toast on a slice of bread under the broiler or serve with crackers to add some grains to your child's diet.

Use a plastic box to hold baggies with after-school snacks in the fridge and another on the counter for snacks that don't have to stay cold. Your kids can choose their own snacks and you'll know they're eating something healthy.

Kids learn from watching, so make sure you eat healthy snacks too. Healthy lunches and snacks will help your kids stay focused during the school day. Try a few of these simple snacks at your house.

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