Helpful info for a healthier lifestyle
Healthy Snacks for Kids

Get a Knack for Healthy Snacks for Kids

Most kids, from toddlers to tweens and teens, need to snack between meals for two key reasons: One, and particularly true for younger children, is their stomachs are small and they’re typically not able to consume enough food at three meals to get the energy (calories) they need. Two, snacks provide the opportunity to offer children healthy foods that complement the foods they eat at meals and complete their nutrition requirements.

“Generally, toddlers and preschoolers need two to three snacks per day. Young school-aged kids and teens need one to two snacks per day, with the caveat that as they get older and their portions get bigger, they need fewer snacks. An exception is child and teen athletes who practice more than an hour a day who may need an additional snack or more food in their snacks,” says Jill Castle, MS, RDN, CDN, Childhood Nutrition & Feeding Expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.

But research shows kids are snacking too often and the foods they choose are too often salty snacks, candy, sweets and sweetened beverages, foods with too many calories and not enough nutrients. Pair this with the knowledge that children need to eat more fruit, vegetables, legumes, low fat dairy foods, and substitute whole grains for refined grains. Unfortunately too much snacking and too many calories from less-than-healthy snacks is one reason that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, about 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese.

It’s time to get a knack for healthy snacks. Here are some tips for healthy snacking for kids, smart snack ideas and recipes to whet your kids’ appetites.

Here are some tips to get the Knack for Healthy Kids Snacks:

  • Use snacks for their intended purpose, to satisfy hunger and serve up nutrition. Don’t use snacks to calm down an upset child or to reward good behavior or a job well done.
     
  • Stock your home only with healthy snack options. This helps to not expose younger kids to unhealthy snack options, and not make them easily accessible for older children.
     
  • Develop family rules for snack options and beverages. Implement them with consistency and firmness. Engage older children in decisions so they feel included.
     
  • Pack healthy snacks and drinks from home to-go on the road. This leads to fewer stops, decisions, arguments and exposure to unhealthy snack options. It can leave money in your pocket, too!
     
  • Serve kid-size portions. Remember these are snacks, not meals.
     
  • Offer snacks two hours or more before mealtime so kids are hungry for their next nutritious meal.
     
  • Mix and match foods from a couple of food groups to supply some carbohydrate for energy and some protein to stave off hunger and build and repair muscles. Think reduced fat (part skim) cheese and whole grain crackers, peanut butter on apples, berries and yogurt, or a glass of low fat milk (the all-in-one snack food with carbohydrate and protein).
     
  • Pre-plan and prepare. Determine your kid’s favorite snacks. Think through smart snack ideas for home, on the road and at athletic practices or events. Always have the ingredients you’ll need on hand.
     
  • Have snacks at the ready for younger kids. For older kids, store snacks at eye level in the refrigerator. These little tricks increase the odds that they’ll select these snacks.
     
  • Engage kids. Let them come up with healthy snack ideas and let them make them. The more they’re in control, the more likely they’ll eat it.
     
  • Skip the sugary beverages with unnecessary calories. Have your kids sip on no-calorie beverages like water, sparkling water, or a diet beverage sweetened with a low-calorie sweetener. If you serve a nutrition-packed beverage like 100 percent fruit juice or low-fat milk, consider it part of the snack.

Quick and Easy Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

Use the tips above to help you come up with healthy snack ideas for children. Consider healthy snacks an opportunity to serve your kids some of their favorite foods as well as foods they need more of. Snack time is also a time to introduce them to new foods and tastes. Try these ideas and recipes from the SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener folks:

In summary, keep in mind that when you serve healthy snacks to your kids you’re serving as their role model for healthier eating. Be a role model for healthy eating from day one of their lives. Be consistent. Eventually, your children will thank you.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.


For more information about planning a healthy diet, visit the Healthy Lifestyle section of this blog.
 

Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies more than 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope notes: “Healthy eating today is one tough job! The good news is that simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating. Each positive step is a step in the right direction along the path to a long and healthy life.”
 

References:

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Position: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114:1257-1276.
  2. Castle J: Childhood obesity and structured eating. http://jillcastle.com/childhood-nutrition/childhood-obesity-structured-eating Accessed July 27, 2016.
  3. Keast DR, Fulgoni VL, Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE. Food sources of energy and nutrients among children in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006. Nutrients. 2013;5(1):283-301.
  4. Guenther P, Casavale K, Kirkpatrick S, et al.: Diet quality of Americans in 2001- 02 and 2007-08 as measured by the Healthy Eating Index-2010. Nutr Insight. 2013, Issue 51.
  5. Childhood Obesity Facts. CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html Accessed July 27, 2016.
  6. Nutrition and the Health of Young People. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/facts.htm. Accessed July 27, 2016.

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