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According to collective consensus, many experts say it’s better to eat smaller meals at regular intervals throughout the day, as a way to provide the body with enough energy to meet their daily energy requirements.
While that may not be true for all adults, it does seem to hold true for young kids. Put simply, they require a lot more nutrients than adults do to cater to their growth and developmental needs. If you’ve ever watched your child go through a growth spurt and eat everything in sight, you’ll recognize the truth in these statements!
Children stay almost constantly active, whether they’re starting kindergarten in the morning, or playing at home in the evening. Some parents aren’t convinced they even sleep! For this reason, it is important that kids eat at least two snacks during their day, along with the three regular meals in their convertible backpack.
After a busy school morning routine, your child will be hungry! A midmorning snack can be packed along with their school lunch to be eaten during the break time in class, whereas a mid-afternoon snack can be served while they are playing at home or busy with their homework a couple of hours before dinner.
If planned and done properly, snacks can help smooth out hunger spikes in children, strengthen their metabolisms and digestive systems, and ensure that they have a constant stream of energy provided to them throughout the day. However, this requires healthy snack options or you’re only setting them up for failure.
Sugary treats and empty calories aren’t good for you or your child. Like adults, kids need a steady supply of nutrients to feed both the body and mind. By providing them with good nutrition, you’re helping them perform well in academic and physically challenging activities.
If kids don’t receive proper nutrition, they can develop deficiencies that may alter or disrupt the development of their physical and mental growth. To counter and prevent this, healthy snacks can serve as an easy way to meet your child’s everyday nutritional needs.
So what’s in a nutritious snack, anyway? There are varying opinions depending on who you ask, but most agree that a child’s snacks should check at least four boxes:
- Low in Sugar and Salt
- High in Fiber
- Nutrient Dense
- No Trans or Saturated Fats
Healthy Snacking Tips
As all parents know, children can be picky eaters. That means finding a snack that’s both healthy and loved by your child is a bit like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
However, children imitate what they see, always. So in order to help them develop this habit, it is important for you to adopt it too, and perhaps even make snack time a family time affair.
Another good idea is to set a daily time for snacks so your child knows when to expect it. To help give them a semblance of control in their daily routine, you can allow them to choose which snack they want each day. In most cases, it’s best not to present more than two options, or snack time might be over before your child finally makes a decision!
Ideally, it is good to include fresh produce in your snacking choices, such as seasonal fruits or vegetables. Fruits are rich in vitamins and essential minerals, all of which are necessary for the proper development and function of internal organs.
Some sort of protein is important as well, combined with healthy fat. To get protein, if your child isn’t much of a meat-eater, you might include dairy items and nuts in your snack list, provided your child doesn’t have any food allergies.
Dairy is rich in protein and calcium, which ensures that bones and teeth stay strong and are well-formed. Nuts are another source of protein and also contain essential fatty acids. They play an important role in the formation and working of the brain, as well as increase mental capacity and enhance cognitive abilities.
Some kids do well with whole-grain snack options too, although it’s better to keep the grains to a minimum. Whole grains are high in fiber, may be helpful for digestion, and usually contain some vitamins and essential minerals.
Short List of Healthy Snack Ideas
- Fresh Fruits—Berries, Bananas, Watermelon
- Vegetables—Avocado, Broccoli, Carrots
- Yogurt and Dairy
- Whole Grains
- Different Types of Cheese
- Nuts and Raisins
- Trail Mix
Snacks Appropriate for School
Depending on the age of your child and their personal preferences, you can create any number of snacks out of the following healthy options we’ve listed below.
In the spirit of back to school tips, keep in mind that it’s a good idea for school snacks to be mess-free and easy because, in school, kids won’t have a lot of time to eat them. Some good snack ideas that fit these requirements are:
- Sliced Fresh Fruit and Vegetables with Dips
- Fruit Yogurt
- Greek Yogurt with Nuts and Berries
- Granola Bar
- Whole Grain Crackers with Cheese
- Whole Wheat Pita Slices with Vegetables/Chicken
- Nuts and Dried Fruit
- Chicken/Turkey Cheese Roll-Ups
- Baked Potatoes and Other Vegetables
- Fresh Fruit/Vegetable/Chicken Sandwiches
Other Popular Snack Choices for Anytime
There are multiple options for easy-to-make and easy-to-eat snacks loved by children and parents alike. These suggestions can be used for school snacks, or afternoon snacks at home and over the weekend.
Popcorn is always on the snack list because it’s a nutrient-dense whole grain that’s fun to eat. Most kids love popcorn. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, B3, and B6, as well as folate and also contains a lot of calcium and iron—even more so than spinach—which can help to develop strong bones and teeth.
Popcorn also contains protein, antioxidants, and essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and zinc, all of which are integral to healthy development and the physical demands of your child’s body and brain.
As popcorn is a whole grain, it is also loaded with fiber and helps the digestive system work properly. In its natural form, popcorn does not contain any harmful saturated or trans fats.
The ideal way to make popcorn is to air pop good quality corn kernels in a skillet or cast iron pan with the lid on. Though there are many topping ideas you can add to popcorn, it tastes delicious even without them. Just add a bit of salt and you’re good to go!
Cookies with Nuts
Granted, cookies aren’t usually the best healthy food choice, as most are loaded with refined sugar. The basic ingredients in most cookies are milk, butter, eggs, and flour. This basically means they contain dairy, grains, and some fat.
However, you can modify your cookie recipes for a healthier option that kids will still love. You can replace simple flour with substitutes like almond or coconut flour, or even oats.
You can use natural sugar substitutes as well, and even add ingredients to give them more of a health boost, like chia seeds, fresh pumpkin, almond butter, or peanut butter. You can add nuts to them, which adds essential fatty acids that help boost your child’s mental capacity and brainpower.
Modified cookies can be a delicious and easy snack idea to incorporate extra protein and calcium into the diets of your children, and the best part is they almost never know the difference - even a picky eater!
Muffins with Berries and Nuts
As in the case of cookies, muffins also contain milk, butter, and eggs, along with the flour. Again, it’s super easy to modify a muffin recipe and swap out simple flour for almond flour, or simple sugars for a natural sweetener.
Some healthy muffin flavors are blueberry, cherry, pumpkin, almond butter, peanut butter, and banana. Muffins may also help keep your child’s tummy feeling filled for longer, especially if you modify them so that they are more nutrient-dense by swapping ingredients and adding things like nuts and real fruit.
When it comes to sandwiches and pita slices, there really is no end to the types of fillings and toppings you can offer. You’re limited only by your own creativity.
Fillings and toppings include meat—turkey, chicken, ham, beef, bacon—vegetables, fruits, fruit jams, honey, butter, nut butter, and cheeses, just to name a few. Sliced avocado happens to be an excellent topping that offers filling fiber and plenty of healthy fat to keep a child satiated, and is great on toast or pita slices.
Most kids love some variation of peanut butter and jelly. You can use natural fruit jam instead of jelly or even combine peanut butter with honey and bananas for a delicious sandwich a few kids can refuse. If you want to reduce simple carbs, you can add peanut butter, honey, and banana to a high protein pita pocket recipe instead.
There are so many snack ideas for kids available nowadays, it’s almost overwhelming. Keep it simple and find a few staples that work for you and your family. Make snack time fun and don’t beat yourself up if occasionally you have a slip-up and offer something that’s not so healthy. We’re all human and we’re all in this parenting gig together.