Whole grains help keep kids from gaining weight, and popcorn qualifies as a whole grain. In fact, a recent study showed that people who eat popcorn regularly get about 22% more fiber in their diet, compared to people who don't eat popcorn.
The only problem is all the fat that accompanies many brands of microwave popcorn. There are some low-fat versions out there, so read labels carefully, says Rarback.
- Air-popping popcorn is your healthiest option. Or make your own microwave popcorn: Place 3 tablespoons of kernels in a brown bag, roll it up, and pop in the microwave. Then spray with butter and add Parmesan cheese or salt. That's about 80 calories.
- Put limits on how much your child eats, Rarback advises. "Instead of putting it in a huge bowl, put a reasonable amount in a small bowl. Make that their serving."
8. Top Summer Food: Watermelon
There's no doubt that watermelon is good for kids -- with its high concentration of lycopene, an important disease-fighting antioxidant. Watermelon is 92% water and 8% sugar, and a favorite sweet treat for kids.
- Make sure watermelon wedges make it to your table. But don't stop there. A platter or bowl of other seasonal fruits -- fresh blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums -- makes a yummy treat, too.
- Taub-Dix suggests putting the fruit bowl in the freezer, and serving it frozen. Her 13-year-old son, Jesse, would rather have the fruit in a smoothie instead. "You won't get kids to pick up frozen fruit," he says. "But a smoothie would be great."
- Introduce kids to fun veggies, too, says Rarback. "Edamame is fun to eat because you pop out the little soy beans out of the pod. It's an engaging thing. But have most kids ever tried it?" Include edamame on raw veggie platters, along with baby carrots, celery sticks, asparagus tips, cherry tomatoes -- plus nutritious dips like hummus or low-fat yogurt.
9. Top Summer Food: Anything Sweet
Chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, cakes of every flavor are all-American picnic fare. Is that really such a bad thing?
If they eat just a slice, that's fine, says Rarback. "In the summer, kids should be active enough that they can eat a piece of cake if they want it -- especially if the majority of their foods are nutrient rich. It's all about balance and moderation."
- Bake cupcakes, brownies, or dessert bars -- instead of layer cakes -- for portion control. Lighten up cake and brownie mixes by replacing oil with half oil and half applesauce (or another fruit puree).
- To give kids a chocolate fix, use chocolate shavings for flavoring on angel food cake, frozen yogurt, seasonal fruit, or other healthier treats. "It's better than giving them a candy bar," Rarback says.
- A naturally sweet treat: grilled bananas, low-fat ice cream, a drizzle of melted chocolate -- and light whipped topping .