“Oh no, you can’t have that now. It will spoil your appetite for dinner.” How many times have you heard that while you were growing up? Many adults feel that all snacks are bad for children and can lead to weight gain but that isn’t always the case.
The trick is offering the right foods at the right time and knowing that snacks can be an important part of your grandchild’s nutrition. Even if he or she is eating three full meals per day, the average child’s stomach isn’t big enough to hold all the calories and nutrients needed to fuel growth and build tissues and bones. Most children need three meals and two or three wisely chosen snacks (smart snacking) per day. A few benefits of smart snacking are:
∎ Manages hunger between meals.
∎ Provides an energy boost between meals.
∎ Keeps older kids from overeating at the next large meal.
∎ Helps prevent overweight.
∎ Offers you the chance to add that fruit or veggie your grandchild didn’t eat at their previous meal.
Give smart snacks instead of the unhealthy, popular ones like chips, cookies and sweets. They provide very little in the way of vitamins and minerals, only “empty calories.” Here are some helpful snack strategies:
∎ Keep snack portions small; under 250 calories.
∎ Give the grandkids snacks and meals on a regular schedule of every three or four hours. Allowing sufficient time between them will ensure the grandkids are not too full to eat their regular meals.
∎ Keep healthy snacks at the ready so the grands will be able to make smart snack choices.
∎ Use the Nutrition Facts label when choosing foods to be used for snacks to be sure they are low in calories, fats and sugar. Instead, buy ones high in calcium, iron and fiber.
Read on for smart snack suggestions:
∎ Smoothie made with low-fat milk
∎ Fruit chunks with flavored yogurt as a dip
∎ Popcorn (it is a whole grain!) sprinkled with Parmesan or garlic powder instead of salt
∎ Celery sticks spread with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese
Some prepared foods used in moderation, can make a no-preparation, healthy and smart snack. Try these when you don’t have time to be in the kitchen:
∎ Low- or reduced-sugar ice cream
∎ Frozen yogurt
∎ Low-fat cottage cheese topped with apple sauce
∎ Low-fat granola bars
Showing your grandchild how to make healthy snack choices now will help set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Begin today!
Links for more ideas:
University of Florida Extension – Raising Healthy Children: The Role of Snacking
Mayo Clinic – Healthy Snacks for Kids: 10 Child-Friendly Tips
Univ. of Illinois Extension – Snacks are Important
Kids Health – Smart Snacking
Janice Wade-Miller is a nutrition educator in Tallahassee, Florida. She has earned her bachelors and masters degrees in Food and Nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator, she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens in learning about good nutrition, health and food safety. Her email address is [email protected].