Guest Post by Brianna Kelly
Proper nutrition is important as kids grow, and snack time should be just as healthy and delicious as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead of reaching for something packaged and processed, parents can make the best of this opportunity by creating healthy and delicious snacks that will keep kids (and their bellies) happy and full until dinner.
Snack time accounts for about 10-15% of kids’ daily calories, so why not take the opportunity to include fruits and veggies? Adding a (healthy!) dip is a great way to get kids more excited about eating fruits and vegetables. Hummus is delicious for dipping vegetables like carrots, celery and peppers. Made from chickpeas, hummus is high in fiber and protein. When kids are craving something sweet, use yogurt for dipping grapes, apple slices and strawberries. Make sure the yogurt contains live active cultures, and try to avoid anything with too much added sugar. Greek yogurt is best for a protein-packed snack, but the tangy flavor may deter kids from eating it. Add a little honey for added sweetness without adding sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Healthy snacks are an important part of helping children develop healthy eating habits and a regular eating schedule. Many nutritionists recommend eating five small meals a day rather than three large ones. Well-portioned snacks between meals can help children make a habit of grazing throughout the day, and encouraging nutritious snacks will allow them to develop a healthy relationship with food. They will also learn that healthy food can be tasty food at an early age, building a foundation for healthy eating habits as adults.
Healthy snacking also provides a great opportunity for kids and parents to spend time together. Allowing kids to help choose and make their own food is a great learning experience, and parents can make it a lot of fun! Funky utensils (like colorful plates and crazy straws) are a great place to start, but there are lots of options for parents to get kids involved in making fun and delicious snacks. Baking is a fun activity for parents to share with kids, and it’s easy to make healthy varieties of classics. Zucchini bread and sweet potato muffins make a sweet treat filled with vegetable nutrition and plenty of fiber. Kids will love the taste – and helping out in the kitchen. Sweet potatoes can also be sliced up and baked in the oven for a healthy alternative to potato chips that your kids will be proud of making. Investing in a few cookie cutters can also make snack time fun as parents and children cut out playful shapes for healthy snacks.
Portion control is also a vital component of healthy snacking. Younger children require less calories, with toddlers only needing about 1,200 calories per day. Once children reach the double digits, gender plays a role in calorie requirements, and girls require less calories than boys. A child’s activity level also greatly affects how many calories he or she needs. Although it can be fun to make snacks together, having pre-portioned snacks on hand can be perfect for times when parents and children are on the go.
Remember that while healthy snacking is great, everyone needs an indulgence – especially kids. Don’t make treats entirely off limits – it will only make children crave them more. It’s OK to go out for ice cream or have a cookie after dinner, and by making these foods accessible (in limited quantities,) children will be more willing to eat healthy snacks. With a little creativity, healthy snacks can become a main ingredient in every child’s daily meal plan.
About the Author: Brianna Kelly has over 5 years experience publishing articles on childcare education and parenting. She writes on a regular basis for Giraffe Childcare, who has 18 locations based in Dublin, Ireland.