Children’s stomachs and attention spans are small, so they cannot consume all of their needed nutrition at meals alone. They rely on eating in between meals to ensure they are getting what they need to grow and keep up with their active lifestyles. Snacking should account for about 25% of children’s daily nutritional intake, so treat snacks as opportunities to get in good nutrition, not as times for mindless munching.
Here are my 5 Do’s & Don’ts every parent should know about snacking:
#1 Don’t Graze
Establish a meal and snack routine. Lots of munching in between meals can deter a child’s appetite, and willingness to try new foods, at mealtimes. If your child is not a big eater at mealtimes, it is tempting to offer more frequent snacks, but I am recommending just the opposite. Keep to one snack in between meals, for a total of two to three snacks throughout the day, to prevent those small stomachs from quickly filling up.
#2 Do More Whole Foods
I like to think of snacks more as mini-meals, and less as processed, “snacky” snacks. At snack time, offer small portions of whole foods that you would find at meal time, with some mix of fiber, protein or healthy fats. Keep reading for some of my top whole foods snacks listed below.
#3 Don’t Overdo Packaged Snacks
Packaged snacks are convenient, and tasty, but they tend to be high in refined grains, sodium and/or salt. Even the cleanest versions of processed snacks, whose ingredients are all pronounceable, take plain unsweetened cereal or puffs, are not necessarily filled with anything bad. But, they are not really offering anything too redeeming either. And, when these empty snacks are eaten too much, too frequently, they can lead to a gap in your little one’s daily nutrition intake. Save packaged snacks for when time and fresh options are limited, but not as the regular go-to choice.
#3 Do Think of Snacks and Treats Differently
I’m all for kids having occasional sweets and treats. But, they should be in addition to, and not in place of nourishing snacks. So, if you want to take the kids out to ice cream, go after they’ve had their apple and peanut butter.
#5). Don’t Stroller Snack
Try to avoid using food as a distraction or for soothing. Most of the strollers I see walking by me on the street have a snack tray filled with snacks. It’s best for children not learn to associate eating with the stroller and being on the-the-go. Food should be eaten when your child can pay attention and be mindful of what he is eating. Of course there are times where eating on the go is a necessity, but aim to not make that regular.
Nutritionist’s Top Whole Food Snacks
- Shredded mozzarella and peppers
- Snap peas and hummus
- Thinly sliced apples topped with mashed avocado
- Cottage cheese and freeze dried fruit
- Whole wheat pita pizzas
- Yogurt and fruit smoothie
- Energy balls made with oats, dates, bananas, chia seeds and almond butter