Snacking Smart

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by Malu Trehan

Snacking among children has gone up by 27% since the 1970’s, trending towards having three snacks a day.(1) Kids are opting for more salty and sweet snacks over dairy and fruit. This kind of consumption can lead to excessive caloric intake and sabotage a child’s weight and overall health. Poorly timed snacks can exacerbate the problem leaving the child with less of an appetite for her nourishing main meal.

That said, snacks can be a great addition to children’s diets and can fill the nutrient gap for their growing bodies. It can also help moderate excessive eating at mealtimes. Here are a few ideas on how to prepare healthy snacks.

Protein, Fat, and Fiber

Make sure your snack provides all three. Protein and fiber add satiety. A cracker by itself for example won’t give that feeling of fullness but a cracker with a slice of cheese, meat, or nut butter with a side of grapes will. Sources of protein are meat, beans, nuts, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese. Healthy sources of fat are avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives. Fiber can be found in beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Time snacks appropriately

A snack eaten half-way between breakfast and lunch, and another one between lunch and dinner can help tie your child over without ruining her appetite. You want your child to come to the table hungry. They are more likely to eat the meal you prepared and will be less fussy. School-aged children need about two snacks a day while teens need one or two. If they participate in sports, a well-timed snack before practice or in the evening is perfect.

Looking for snack ideas? Try these!

  • Smoothie made with frozen berries, banana, yogurt and milk

  • Celery sticks with cream cheese or nut butter

  • A cup of vegetable soup

  • Carrot sticks and pita wedges dipped in hummus

  • Guacamole and whole grain crackers with a side of fruit

  • Yogurt* layered with berries and rolled oats or granola.

*Look for yogurt with less than 2 tsps of sugar per serving (4g = 1 tsp of sugar)