Snacking often is perceived as an unhealthy habit but regular snacking helps to control hunger, prevents energy crashes, and can even contribute to healthier food choices throughout the day. Kids actually may need to snack in between meals to support growth and development, especially amongst toddlers and young children whose stomachs are small yet whose nutritional needs are quite large. Good snacks support growth, contribute to a balanced diet and actually make you less likely to overeat.
A recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that healthy snacks help kids feel full faster because wholesome foods such as vegetables, fruits and cheese provide real nourishment for children, satisfying their internal hunger cues. The study found that when kids munch on "typical" snack foods such as potato chips, they eat more food without actually getting satisfied. Highly palatable foods like potato chips, soda and sweets don't make the best snack foods because they don't fill us up the same way wholesome snacks do. Sugary snacks are always tempting in the short term but ultimately lead to a sugar crash and always will make your child hungrier sooner.
Snacks can help you incorporate more produce into your child's diet as well, because fruit and precut veggies make the perfect foundation for a snack. When possible, try to incorporate a protein (peanut butter, cheese, yogurt) with the produce to make your snack a "mini-meal." Always be ready for the next snack attack by keeping your child's favorite snack options close by, so that you are ready when hunger strikes.
Use this chart to pick a protein and match it with a fiber/carbohydrate source to choose your own snack adventure:
|Pick a protein||Match it with a fiber-rich carbohydrate source|
Happy, healthy snacking!