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Quick bites: Snacking is a full-time responsibility

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I have four kids. That fact shapes my life in many ways, and one of them is that I think a lot about snacks.

Kids like snacks. My kids, who have two snack-loving parents, probably like snacks even more than most other children. The challenge is keeping the snacks varied and interesting to the kids, plus reasonably healthy.

Not that I totally avoid unhealthy snacks. One of my little boy's favorite treats right now is a small green Icee and mini bag of barbecue potato chips from the Olympus Cove Holiday convenience store. The store is on the way home from his preschool, and he loves to go there.

However, realizing that an Icee and barbecue chips every Tuesday and Thursday probably isn't a nutritionally sound way to go, I have made it a very occasional treat. Though he asks often, I usually tell him today's not the day for that snack. When he does get it, the rejoicing is pretty darn adorable.

I'm big on after-school snacks, as well, particularly the portable kind that don't mess up your car as kids wolf them down on the way to various lessons, practices and activities.

My default kid snack on the go is an apple and a granola bar — two of my kids like Special K bars (my son calls them "Katie bars"), one prefers Nature Valley and one NutriGrain. Sometimes I'll get really exciting and throw in reduced-fat cheese crackers.

Recently, I tried out a couple of newer snacks. Both are more expensive than my go-to options, but both might provide a welcome, if occasional, respite from the usual.

The first, Disney Foodles (about $2.50), killed two birds with one stone for me. First, it's a nutritious, high-in-kid-appeal snack: A Mickey Mouse-shaped container holds cheese cubes in one ear, teensy pretzels in another ear and apple slices in the head section. Other varieties feature veggies.

Second, buying Foodles once in a while gets my son off my back about Lunchables. I know many kids like Lunchables, and I know they're convenient. But I've always found them expensive, low quality for the price and just kind of yucky.

Foodles are part of the Disney Garden line, an effort by the company to identify its vast library of characters kids love with healthier food options. Does having Disney characters on a package make my kids want to buy it? You bet. So I appreciate Disney using some of its vast marketing power to promote products that are good for my kids.

It would be hard to find a more good-for-you snack than Fruit 2day (about $1.50 for a 6.75-ounce bottle), a chunky drink that has no added sugar, two servings of fruit, lots of vitamin C and only 120 calories.

As someone who is blessed with Tongan friends, I am already familiar with the concept of chunky juice drinks from years of enjoying mango otai, a fabulous concoction of milk or cream, juice, mangoes and coconut. It's like fruit salad that you drink, or a smoothie you eat, and the feeling is somewhat the same with Fruit 2day.

My kids enjoyed the chunkiness and strong fruit flavors of their drinks, particularly the mango peach and pineapple banana varieties. I liked them, as well, and also enjoyed my more grown-up flavor, pomegranate blueberry. However, most of its chunks seemed to be pears. There's not anything wrong with that, necessarily, but pears weren't pictured on the label.

Still, though, it's a more nutritionally appealing and equally filling option than an Icee and chips, and for about the same price. Sounds like a winner to me.

Email: skratz@desnews.com