12/16/2013 03:01 EST | Updated 03/03/2014 04:59 EST

Healthy Holiday Snack Strategies For The Kids

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From candy canes and gum drops to gingerbread cookies and shortbread, so much of the holiday season is synonymous with treats and goodies. With some resourcefulness, you can offer smart snacking for the holidays that your whole family will love.

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Let them indulge in a comforting beverage

As a special treat, you can’t beat a cup of calcium-rich hot cocoa, especially after coming home from an afternoon of tobogganing or skating. Make it a healthier version for your children by preparing it from scratch using lower-fat milk and a high quality unsweetened cocoa (if your kids need some sweetness, use a sweetener such as honey.

Focus on nature’s candy

If you’re looking for a quick snack this holiday season, reach for a handful of dried fruit. When fruit is dehydrated, the sugars are naturally concentrated. Just be careful with portion size -- one serving is one-quarter cup. Include some in a small handful of unsalted nuts as a snack, or add some to some low-fat yogurt (hide the fruit in yogurt, so it becomes a treasure hunt!). If you’re purchasing dry fruit, make sure to read the labels, as many contain added sugars.

Cook with healthier grains

Depending on their age, kids from two to 13 years of age need anywhere from three to six servings of grain products a day. When baking, make substitutions that’ll make your baked goods a bit healthier like substituting whole wheat flour for half the amount of white flour. Stick to recipes that focus on whole grains, such as lower fat, whole grain muffins rather than sugar- and butter-heavy baked goods. If you haven’t switched your kids over to whole-grain pasta and bread already, you can ease them into it by mixing it into their regular pasta (go with half of each kind, for example) so their taste buds become accustomed to the flavour over time.

Make meals and snacks fun

Don’t make eating just about consuming food. When stringing popcorn for trimming the tree, let your kids eat some, too (popcorn is a whole-grain snack after all -- just be sure to eat it plain and not covered in butter and salt).

For young kids, create pictures on their plates with the ingredients; play with dark greens and other colourful veggies as your palette so your kids get a variety of vitamins and minerals in their snack (kids two to 13 years old should have four to six servings a day of fruits and veggies, depending on their age).

Better yet, make it into a fun activity to keep your kids busy, and let them create an image using the ingredients you’ve provided. They get to play with their food, and you give them a smart (and fun) snack!

Find a healthy replacement for their favourite snack

Your kids likely gravitate towards a favourite type of treat, so keep that in mind when planning snacks for them over the holidays. If they love ice cream, make low-fat frozen yogurt pops for them so they can get their icy fix. Do they love potato chips? Plain popcorn, crisp veggies, or whole-grain crackers may fulfill their craving for crunch. And rather than an apple pie, make them a baked apple topped with a bit of whole-grain granola and chopped nuts; we bet they won’t even miss their slice of pie once they’re through with that.