Many parents are concerned that snacking will spoil their child’s appetite for dinner. Other parents are of the belief that snacking between meals will lead to excessive weight gain. The truth is that well-timed and well-planned snacks can provide your child with an energy boost between meals. Snacks play an important role in boosting nutrition and controlling hunger.
What are Healthy Snacks?
Snacking does not mean grabbing a cookie, a bag of chips, or a candy bar. Healthy snacks contain:
- Low sugar. Foods labeled “all natural” and “no added sugar” can still be a high a source of sugar. Fruit juices provide sugar calories with no added nutritional benefit. However, an orange provides quick sugar energy now and fiber to keep your child full longer.
- No trans fat. Some granola bars, saltine crackers, Girl Scout Cookies, and animal crackers contain trans fat. Even if the food label clearly says “0 grams Trans Fat Per Serving,” it may still contain trans fat. Read food labels carefully. If the ingredients contain shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, then the snack contains trans fat.
- Protein. Protein helps keep blood sugar levels steady and slows down digestion. This helps prevent hunger cravings.
- Fiber. Fiber-rich foods help your child feel full longer.
When Is the Best Time to Give My Child a Snack?
Most children and teenagers feel hungry every three to four hours. Eating a snack a few hours after a meal but at least one to two hours before the next meal will usually control starvation but still allow for a healthy appetite at mealtimes.
When snacks are planned at regular times and coordinated with mealtimes, children are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and appetite.
Where Should My Child Snack?
If your child is at home or in an aftercare setting, then snack should always be eaten in a designated eating area. Snacks should not be served while watching TV or playing on the computer. Studies have shown that “mindless munching” leads to overeating and unhealthy weight gain.
Smart Snacking Ideas
1. Prepare in advance.
Keep plastic snack bags in the fridge ready to grab and go:
- Cut up apples strawberries, melons, grapes, blueberries
- Baby carrots
- Celery sticks
2. Keep snacks with you.
- Whole grain crackers
- Rice cakes
- Nuts mixed with dried cranberries or other dried fruit
3. Make it fun.
- Ants on a log: peanut butter or sun butter spread on celery sticks and topped with raisins
- Frozen banana and low-fat milk or almond milk smoothie
- Whole grain pita cut into triangles and served with flavored hummus dip
Children who eat regular meals and healthy snacks are less likely to overeat and gain weight. For more ideas on how to prepare healthy snacks, check out the Texas 2016 Veggie Fair on Saturday, October 22 at Reverchon Park, Dallas.