“I want a snack!” Most parents know that phrase all too well. We may occasionally roll our eyes upon hearing it, but it is OK for kids to eat a little something between meals. In fact, snacks can play a big part in fulfilling a child’s daily nutritional requirements.
The important thing is to provide children with nutritious snacks that don’t undermine our primary goal of keeping them healthy and fit. Avoid foods that are fried, processed, too oily or too salty. And, definitely keep sugar to a minimum. If your child eats healthy snacks from the start, they’ll likely continue to make good food choices throughout their lives.
As for serving sizes, young children don’t need large portions. Many experts agree that servings should equal about one tablespoon of food for each year of a child’s age. Enjoy serving them those small portions now, because your grocery bills will increase dramatically as they get older!
Healthy Snack Ideas:
- Crunchy vegetable sticks (carrots, celery) with low-fat ranch dip (for older preschoolers)
- Nearly frozen applesauce
- Melon Melody: Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew with non-fat whipped cream
- Ants on a Log: Peanut butter on celery with raisins
- Mud & Dirt: Low-fat pudding with crushed graham crackers mixed in
- Peanut butter on half of a whole-wheat bagel
- Whole-wheat crackers or whole-wheat tortilla with salsa
- Hummus and pita wedges
- “Light” microwave popcorn with grated parmesan cheese (for children three years and older)
- Mini-pizzas: Half an English muffin covered with a tablespoon of tomato sauce, then topped with part-skim mozzarella cheese
Note: Avoid feeding foods such as hot dogs, sausages, hard pieces of raw vegetables, popcorn, nuts, seeds, dried fruits (including raisins), whole grapes and round candies to children under the age of three, due to choking hazards. If you’re unsure about what’s right for your child, please contact your pediatrician.
Choosing and Buying Snacks
- Buy only healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Before you go shopping, tell your children what behavior you expect and what, if any, snack they can expect.
- Take snacks with you when you go to appointments or run errands.
- Provide snacks that are easy to eat.
- Use snacks to provide the food groups your children are missing during meals.
- Make snacks small, then give seconds if the child asks for more.
- Decide what snacks you will allow, and when. Explain the rules to your child and stick to them.
Note: A portion of this information is provided courtesy of Ready for Life, a special community education project of Dallas public television station, KERA.