Healthy, helpful snack tips for kids

Children of all ages can benefit from snacking. Children who have a fuelled brain and satisfied tummy will perform better mentally and ensure good concentration for helping them with school work. Healthy snacking habits need to be learnt early and you as the parent are the best role model. If you start from a young age, those healthy food choices become the norm. Healthy snacking helps children to learn about their physiological hunger cues rather than external cues and also helps avoid weight issues down the line.

Unfortunately these days the snacks available to kids are often high in calories, sugar and saturated fats. Just pop your head into many tuck shops at schools and youwill see the only options available are the quick easy options such as chips, sweets, frozen juices and toasted sandwiches on white bread. Very rarely do you find a tuck shop that offers fresh fruit and veg as options for break time snacks.

Left to their own devises kids will often choose the chocolate chip cookie or chips and flop down in front of the TV o munch on these snacks. What’s more, research shows that toddlers are consuming one-third of their daily calories in snacks that consist mostly of highly processed foods. Studies have also shown that children are snacking more than ever and it is therefore vital that we offer and provide them with healthy options that contribute important nutrients instead of filling them with foods made with refined ingredients, such as flour, sugar, and oils.

Helpful tips:

  1. Snacks for your kids should include a mix of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and good fats.
  2. Aim for two food groups in a snack.  E.g. a fruit and yogurt, nuts and fruit, whole grain crackers and cheese or veggie sticks and hummus
  3. Remember portion size, this should be a snack not a main meal.
  4. Offer meals and snacks at predictable/set times. Let your kids know the kitchen is closed when it is not a snack or meal time.
  5. Don’t offer snacks too close to a main meal. This will just spoil their appetite for their lunch or dinner.
  6. Discourage mindless munching. Enforce the healthy habit of having to sit down to eat snacks without the distraction of the television, computers etc.
  7. Get creative with veg: Veggies are jam packed with nutrients. School-age kids need between 1 ½ – 3 cups of vegetables and about 1-2 cups of fruit a day, depending on their age. It is often difficult to get this amount in at a breakfast, lunch or dinner so adding them to snacks is imperative. See our blog on snack ideas for kids.
  8. Snack according to the season: Shop for items that are in season. Benefits:This will ensure that you are getting the maximum amount of nutrients out of that product and it is usually more affordable.
  9. Get creative. Offer your kids a snack that is the same colour and change those colours each day of the week. (E.g. A crunchy red snack of red pepper, baby tomatoes and red apples). This can help get kids more excited about their snacks, as well as assisting with learning colours.
  10. Healthy habits need to be formed early on: The example a parents sets for their child is so important. It is essential to introduce healthy foods and eating habits from early on as this is when our health and lifetime habits are formed.
  11. A funky lunch box/bag: Providing a proper lunch bag that will keep your children’s snacks at a cool temperature is also important. Packing snacks in an interesting way and being creative with your snack options and variety will also help keep your kids interested and excited for their snacks.
  12. The Sweeter side of things: Cookies and sweets do not belong on a list of healthy snacks, but that does not mean that a child should never have a treat. Avoid stocking your pantry cupboard with high sugar or salty snacks to reduce the temptation. These foods should also not be used as a means of reward for good behaviour. Rather use something like stickers or a special outdoor activity to reward young children. If your children are wanting something sweet, a much better option would be a fresh fruit or fruit salad.

For enquiries regarding paediatric nutrition, contact Sarah Gouws or Rochez O’Grady, Munchwize Dietitians Cape Town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

www.eatright.org

www.choosemyplate.gov

Today’s Dietitian, vol 13, No 12, P 20