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Sometimes you have to think out of the box to get fast-paced older kids to eat healthier.

Here are some tips that are working for time-pressed moms:

- Dinner ready now - when kids get home from school they are famished. Why not have last night’s dinner leftovers ready for them to heat and eat now? This beats chips, crackers, cookies and other high-cal, low-fiber foods that ruin the dinner appetite for later anyway.

- Make your own lunch - when left to their own devices kids can surprise you at how they like to put things like salad, fruit, yogurt and fruit juice in their own lunchbox - and what a deal to have it made the night before!

- Video/TV/homework snack platter - did you know that a kid who is playing video games or TV or doing homework is a captive audience for eating pretty much anything you put in front of him/her? Sure, we don’t want them to have a lot of computer/video game time. But these things are here to stay and moderation is key as long as they are physically active. Make a plate of veggies and fruit slices and watch them just disappear without word! Bean dip, yogurt parfaits with whole grains and fruits, pita pizza triangles, smoothies - you name it - if you make it and serve it they will eat it. This is a lot better than bags of chips and boxes of cookies and crackers.

- The buffet - save time, energy, fuel costs and cook’s patience by batch cooking huge meals every 2 days instead of every day. Leftovers can feed you for a few days if you choose. But the most fun is putting it all out in a buffet the first night. Salad, tortilla pizza, soup, potatoes, veggies, pasta - you name it - put it out and they will increase their repertoire of what they like to eat. Be sure to have another fruit buffet later on with melon, fruit salad, grapes, berries an dapples.

- Say NO to the habit of fast food. Take healthful snacks with you in the car for after school and after activities.

- Be a good snack mom - buy water, fruits and a large bag of pretzels instead of those high-cal packages of snacks and sugary juice drinks.

- Parties - Sure they want pizza, but you can also serve salad, home-baked chicken and plenty of fruit with the pizza. Kids gobble up the pizza and then they eat the healthier stuff as seconds - just have it on hand and it will disappear!

When presenting a program on healthy snacks for kids, Lisa Graves, MS, RD, Consumer and Family Sciences Educator, Purdue Extension, asks the caregiver or parent to devote a section of a recipe box to each child in the family.

“Work with the children to fill recipe cards with healthier snack options. The next time the children are hungry for a snack you will have ideas that you know are nutritious and that each child will enjoy!”

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