Healthy Snack Options for Kids That All Moms Will Love
Are snacks really important?
Meals should make up the majority of a child’s daily nutritional intake, but that doesn’t mean there is no room in their diets for snacking. In fact, snacks are crucial for children because they are still growing and developing, they have smaller stomachs and varying appetites from one day to the next, consequently eating 5 to 6 times a day (3 meals with 2 to 3 healthful snacks) may help them meet their nutrient needs, boost their energy, maintain a healthier body weight, focus better in school, as well as discover new foods and establish healthy eating habits.
Healthy eating in childhood helps build adults that have good eating habits, a diversified palate, a healthy weight and a lowered risk of many diseases. And, it’s easier to learn how to eat well at a young age than to change your habits as an adult.
The snacks I brought today are typically snack options that one may consider more fitting for mom and dad, and less “kid-friendly”, but truthfully, snacks are meant to be nutritious and healthy and equally good for adults and children!As parents we want our kids healthy and happy in life, and one of the best gifts we can give them for their whole lives is the habit of eating well.
Important considerations when choosing a snack:
1. Keep portion sizes reasonable. Adding too many calories could lead to obesity or cause kids not to eat as much at mealtime; snacks for kids should be around 100 calories, sometimes a bit more, especially if the child ate less at the previous meal or wasn’t feeling so well and skipped it altogether. Giving a snack that is too large may cause the child to not eat as much at mealtime.
2. Don’t give a snack right before a meal as it may fill them up and decrease the amount of food they will eat during the meal. If a child is particularly hungry, vegetables, fruits and water is fine an hour or so before a meal. Create a mealtime and snack time structure and do your best to stick to it.
3. As a parent YOU decide what they eat, kids decide how much and sometimes when they eat. It’s important that you offer them smart snacking choices and encourage healthful snacking habits, but that they also learn to honor they satiety and hunger cues, instead of override them.
Strive for satisfying, nutrient dense snacks made of whole, unprocessed foods that provide sustained energy and taste good, so they will actually eat it. Too often kids’ snack choices are very high in carbs, often the refined kind, have minimal nutrition and are filled with empty calories (cheesy crackers, cookies or cereal bars, fruity snacks, chips).
A snack is not supposed to be a reward or treat or dessert, it shouldn’t be highly processed, too sugary, salty, high in fat, but rather a combination of foods that will support or even enhance your child’s diet.
The winning combination for choosing a healthy, satisfying and nutritious snack is to choose one food from each of these two categories (click on the image below for a printable PDF):
4. Planning. Being prepared is very important and helpful when busy, but makes snacks also accessible when kids are hungry. Cut up veggies and fruits, bake a batch of whole grain muffins and freeze them, soak your chia seeds or oats in larger quantities and then customize your individual servings as you go, have some homemade hummus or other bean dips ready to go in the fridge, prepare little freezer smoothie (easy to sneak in good for you foods) bags for the week (1.5 c fruit + 2 c greens + 1.5 c liquid), and keep your child’s backpack and your purse stocked with whole fresh fruits, sugar-free dried fruits, nuts and seeds.
NB. For kids under 4, make sure to avoid big chunks of any food as they pose serious choking hazards. Certain raw veggies and fruits, such as carrots, apples, whole cherry tomatoes, whole green beans, celery, grapes, should be cut into small pieces and/or cooked. Be careful also with nuts, popcorn and sticky foods like peanut butter.
Here is a quick list of both sweet and salty homemade snack ideas (click on the image below for a printable PDF):
5. Healthy commercially packaged foods and snacks are much harder to find. My basic advice for choosing a healthier option is to look at the ingredients list (short, whole grains, ingredients you can read and understand) and compare the nutrition facts table to choose the ones with the:
most protein (around 3 g),
most fiber (around 4 g)
least fat (around 3 g)
least sugar (around 6 g)
Avoid juices, even when those made with 100% fruit juice and no added sugar, they are a source of unnecessary calories. Stick to milk or water as the go-to beverages. Candies, sugary cereals, ice cream, chocolate, chips, as well as most cookies, granola bars, cereal bars, most crackers, etc., are considered treats and to be eaten only very occasionally.
Here are a few of my favorite commercial snack ideas (click on the image below for a printable PDF):