Snacks are more than just a fun treat for your child. A well-timed snack can provide a boost of energy between meals, aid in growth and development, and prevent a child from becoming overly hungry or cranky. Don’t let snacks be a missed nutritional opportunity.
Follow these 4 guidelines for healthy snacking:
- Consider the Nutritional Content
Take your child’s snacks seriously by thinking of them as “mini-meals.” Their role is to help your child meet his or her nutritional needs for the day. This is not a time to offer “treats” or reward a child for good behavior.
Remember that snacks should be well-balanced. Include at least 2 of the 5 foods groups (grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, meats/beans) at every snack time. For example, cheese and whole grain crackers or a piece of fruit and ready-to-eat cereal. A bag of chips will not pack the same nutritional punch as a handful of berries. Avoid processed foods that are high in sugar and fat. Instead, choose foods that are high in fiber and protein. These foods will keep your child fuller longer and tide him or her over until the next mealtime.
- Remember Portion-Control
Don’t let snack time be a free-for-all. Children who are allowed to eat as much as they want run the risk of overeating. This can also lead to eating for reasons other than hunger, such as boredom. Notice the serving size on the nutrition facts labels to know how much to offer. For example, offer one granola bar or 2 slices of bread with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter.
- Keep in mind the Schedule
Incorporate 2 or 3 snacks into your child’s daily routine. Since most children need to refuel about every 2 hours, it’s best to offer snacks halfway between scheduled meals. For example, a mid-morning snack around 10 am and an afternoon snack around 3 pm. Pay attention to timing of snacks. Do not offer something to eat less than an hour before mealtime as it may interfere with your child’s appetite.
- Make Healthy Snacks Fun
Make snack time fun! Allow your child to prepare his or her own snack. This will also encourage those who are picky eaters to try new foods. Try a kid-friendly recipe for your child’s next snack time!