Food for Thought

Kids need healthy snacks to navigate their days.

Any adult who has ever tried to lose weight knows the number one rule of dieting: no snacking. But kids are different. Their metabolisms are churning, their stomachs are smaller, and they can’t eat much in one sitting. So, while mom and dad may be wise to avoid snacking, kids actually need small, regularly scheduled snacks as part of a healthy diet.

Unfortunately, not all snacks are created equal. A snack doesn’t have to be a processed item full of refined sugar and empty calories. Snacks can be mini-meals comprised of the same healthy ingredients you feed your child at mealtimes. As a parent, your job is to focus on quality (whole foods); quantity (small portions); and frequency (two to three snacks per day is plenty).

Stick to these guidelines for a healthy snacking household:

Healthy Snacking 101

  • Plan snacks as part of your child’s daily meal plan. Most kids need to eat 3 meals plus 2-3 snacks per day.
  • Offer snacks at regular times, such as midmorning and midafternoon.
  • Help your child focus on the snack. Turn off the television and sit at the table. Avoid snacking in the car.
  • Time snacks carefully. Allow 2-3 hours before the next meal, otherwise you’ll be faced with kids who aren’t hungry for dinner.

Set-Up for Snack Success

  • Stock the refrigerator and pantry with healthy whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain crackers.
  • Set aside a snack space in a cabinet and the refrigerator so that your child will know where to look for healthy snacks.
  • Wash and chop fruits and vegetables ahead of time so that they are easy to grab.
  • Involve your child in choosing and preparing snacks. Kids are more likely to eat something they’ve picked out—this is even more true if they’ve picked something from the garden.
  • Make it appealing. Kids gravitate to the colors and shapes of processed foods. Work some magic with the cookie cutter to create fun finger foods for your child.

Healthy Snacks that Kids Love

  • Fruit (It’s naturally sweet and can help curb sugar cravings.)
  • Yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Trail mix
  • Nuts
  • Hummus
  • Applesauce
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Celery and almond butter
  • Popcorn