Q: I’m looking for ideas for “free” foods (those with less than 5 carb grams) to have on hand this summer — string cheese and sugar-free gelatin cups aren’t cutting it with my 6-year-old. We’re on week two of summer vacation and already fighting each afternoon over what he can have for a snack!

A: It can feel like a tall order to come up with a variety of healthy and taste-bud–pleasing snacks over the summer, especially if you’re on the lookout for “free” foods or lower carb options that help to keep your child full but don’t do much to change between-meal insulin needs.

The good news? There’s a lot more available than just string cheese! You — and your son — will be happy to know that some of the healthiest, easiest-to-prepare snacks are also some of the tastiest. Check out some of these tried-and-true ideas (and please note that exact carbohydrate counts will depend on serving size):

Go for a Dip Plate up a sliced cucumber, celery stalk or carrot and serve with hummus, cream cheese or ranch dip. For homemade ranch with calcium and protein, puree cottage cheese in a blender or food processor until creamy smooth, then add a packet of ranch dressing mix. It’s delicious and tends to have a lower carbohydrate count per serving than most commercial dressings. If you have room for a few more carbs for this snack, add some pita chips or whole -grain crackers to dip.

Go Nuts At home, smear some nut butter on apple slices. On the go, bring along a ¼- cup serving of nuts for a crunchy, filling snack. Small servings of pumpkin or sunflower seeds are also great for healthy munching. And don’t forget the old standby of ants-on-a-log: Filling a celery stalk with peanut butter (or cream cheese) and adding a few raisins is a perennial kid favorite!

Explore New Territory Pickles and olives; air-popped popcorn; a ¼-cup serving of blueberries, cherry tomatoes, or avocado; a hard-boiled egg — depending on your child’s preferences for food tastes and textures, the sky really is the limit for coming up with new and exciting “free” food combinations. Midafternoon guacamole served on tomato slices? Popcorn with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese? Explain to your son what kinds of foods are available and see what tasty snack combinations the two of you can create together.

Keep It Cool Because it’s summer and the weather is hot, consider snacks that keep your child cool and provide fluids. Children with diabetes can have ice cream and ice pops, of course, as long as the carbs are covered with insulin. If you want a less sugary treat, however, there are plenty of options, including making freezer pops from sugar-free drink mixes, sugar-free puddings, or pureed watermelon (a ½-cup serving of diced watermelon contains approximately 6 grams of carbohydrates). There’s even a fun gizmo sold at most large discount stores that turns sugar-free drink mixes into ice-cold slushes by just adding a few ice cubes.

With so much to choose from, this may be the summer you both realize there’s really no such thing as a boring snack. Enjoy!

–Darcy de la Rosa, R.D., C.D.E., is a registered dietitian at the Florida Center for Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando.

How Other Parents Deal

“I bought a few of those plastic ice pop molds and now make pops with different carb counts — some are made with frozen sugar-free drink mix, some with regular drink mix, and others are made from pureed frozen fruit (no sugar added) — so I always have a cool treat on hand with an appropriate number of carbs for that particular snack. Just make sure you label the pop tray with what’s inside!”

–Laurie S., Oklahoma City, Okla., mom of 8-year-old Kasey

Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.

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Easy Alternatives to Packaged Snacks

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