I know you want your kids to eat healthy snacks for their sake. But what if changing the way your kids snack could change YOUR life? Wouldn’t that be great?

Most parents think of meals as their nutrition zone, and snacks as extras. But from a habits perspective, snack time might just be the most important time of the day.

It’s not just that most “snack” foods are a nutrition wasteland and unless we’re careful it’s easy to run into a portion/calorie size problem. Improving snack time will make your life easier.

If you continually rotate (and constantly rotating is the key) through a selection of fruits, vegetables, yogurt, cheese and processed snack foods like crackers and cereal bars in proportion to their healthful benefits – fruits/veggies most often and processed snacks least often – not only will you improve the overall quality of your children’s diets, but you will also see the following benefits:

1. You won’t have to fight at mealtimes to get your kids to eat their vegetables. Research shows that the more often your children are exposed to fresh fruits and vegetables the more they will like them. In other words, the more carrots you provide at snack time, the more broccoli your kids will consume at dinnertime.

2. Your children will be more open to trying new foods. Research shows that increasing the variety in a child’s diet is the best way to keep her open to trying new foods. By rotating through different snacks, instead of sticking to the same tried-and-true, you train your children to accept different tastes, textures and food appearances and that’s the key to new food acceptance.

3. Your children will beg for junk less frequently. Habitually snacking on crackers, puffs and other processed foods increases their craving for salty, crunchy and/or sweet foods — See David Kessler’s new book, The End of Overeating – eating fresh foods does the opposite.

4. Mealtimes will become more enjoyable. You won’t have to worry how well your children eat at meals if their snacks are more nutritious. Less pressure = more fun.

5. You won’t have to nag your children to eat more at meals. Your children will eat better at meals because they’ll be less full from snacks. Not only are most fresh, natural foods less calorie-dense than processed snacks, but your kids will naturally eat smaller portions when they eat blueberries than when they eat blueberry cereal bars, blueberry bagels, or blueberry muffins.

6. Grocery shopping with your kids will be more pleasant. Fruits and vegetables don’t usually produce brand loyalty so you’ll have fewer struggles at the grocery store.  More snacking variety, including eating fewer processed snacks, helps to reduce whatever brand loyalty your child has.

7. Play dates, visits with grandparents and other social events will be less stressful. When you provide healthier snacks on a regular basis you won’t mind as much when your kids score junk from others.

8. Your children will accept “no” more easily. Teaching children to eat foods in proportion to their healthful benefits – i.e. to eat veggies more often than Veggie Booty — teaches kids that they can have their favorite foods, even if they can’t have them every day. In this way they learn limits and boundaries.

9. You’ll be less likely to teach your children to eat for all the wrong reasons. You won’t be as tempted to offer your children food to cheer them up, or because they’re bored, sad or lonely. Whoever got an apple after visiting the doctor or a banana so they would stop crying?

10. You’ll be happy knowing you’re teaching your kids the habits they need for a lifetime of healthy eating!

Remember, it’s not so much what you feed, as what you teach, that matters.