Many children eat constantly throughout the day. Snacks are good for kids. This is because they help them stay focused at school and on homework, give them needed nutrients and keep hunger at bay. A ‘snack’ – to lots of children and teens – is a bag of crisps, some biscuits or some other low-nutrient food. But what should children snack on?
Unplanned, random snacking can lead to problems. Nonstop snacking interferes with kids’ appetites. It can disrupt their natural instinct to experience hunger and fullness. Snacks can help children get the energy and nutrients they need. This is when the snacks are timed correctly.
Importance of snacking for children
When should children snack?
A lot of children and teens need to eat every three to four hours. This is to fuel their growing, active bodies. This translates into the following:
- Children who are young need to eat three meals. They also need to consume at least two snacks a day.
- Older children need to eat three meals and at least one snack a day. These children may need two snacks if they’re going through a growth spurt or if they are very physically active).
Plan meals and snacks during the day. Offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about one to two hours before the next one begins. Delaying snacks until a few hours after a meal assists to prevent kids from rejecting food at a meal and then pleading for more food just after the meal ends. Stopping snacking just before meals inspires a healthy appetite at mealtimes.
What should children snack on?
If your kid requires more calories, and eats enough at mealtimes, offer more. If your child suffers from a weight issue, fruit or vegetables will be enough. Snack time should not be seen as a time to eat junk food. Being prepared is very helpful:
- Cut up veggie sticks the night before, or
- Make wholegrain muffins on weekend and freeze them .
Keep fruit and vegetables washed. Cut these up so it is easy for your child to help him/herself.
Limit the amount you offer of sweet, salty or fatty foods. Try not to let your child take what they want. Adults have a hard time limiting the amount of sweet and savoury snacks they eat so we should not expect our children to restrain themselves either.
Children need to be taught what the right amount is for their bodies. Remember that you are teaching them information about healthy eating that they will have for the rest of their lives. Don’t count on them to learn it outside the home.
Examples of healthful snack items are:
- Veggie sticks with hummus
- Yoghurt topped with berries or the favourite fruit
- Cheese stick and apple
- Tortilla chips with salsa
- Celery sticks plus 1 TBL nut butter
- Fruit kebabs dipped in yoghurt
- Smoothies: Mix in a blender milk (1⁄2 cup skim), fruit (1⁄2 cup strawberries) and yogurt (2 oz). Kids love them frozen, too.
Want to learn more about keeping your child fit and healthy? Trifocus Fitness Nutrition for Children Course will teach you all that you need to know! For more information about this and our other online fitness courses, please visit our website.