Smart Snacking For Kids
In the past 25 years, kids have greatly increased the number of snacks they consume. Here are some helpful hints for “smart snacking.”
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In the past 25 years, kids have greatly increased the number of snacks they consume, and Americans in general are moving toward a pattern of continuous eating. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthy snacks as part of early childhood nutrition, especially since younger children have small stomachs and might not be able to get all their nutrients at mealtime. Since almost one in 3 children starts school either overweight or obese, giving healthy snacks to your preschoolers can help get them off to a good start.
Roughly 60% of children between the ages 2 and 6 eat 3–5 snacks daily. Sweet and salty snacks (including sugary drinks) make up nearly one-third of their daily calories. These calorie-dense foods are linked to excess weight gain.
However, there are ways to get the proper nutrients into their little bodies without going over their daily calorie needs. Two to 3 healthful snacks can be just the ticket. Here are some helpful hints for "smart snacking."
Think food groups. Many traditional snacks are carb-based, have little nutrition, and are just empty calories. Plan to include 2 food groups per snack. Try these nutritious choices:
Whole-grain cereal with dried fruit
Peanut or almond butter on apple slices
Plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey and chopped fruit
Nut butter on whole-grain bread or crackers.
Fill in the gaps by including a food missed at a meal. Young children can be picky eaters, especially at mealtime. Eating a snack—such as fruit, vegetable, or protein (for example, chicken, egg, nut butter, or raw veggies with a yogurt-based dip)—between meals can make up for what they've missed at a meal.
Timing is important. Limit snack time to 10–15 minutes, so kids aren't eating continually. Plan so that snacks don't happen too close to mealtime.
Portion size matters. Remember that kids are small, so their food portions should be too. Reasonable portion sizes are about half the amounts of adult ones. For example ¼ cup green beans and ½ slice of whole-wheat bread is an appropriate portion for a young child (3–5 years old). However, they still need a total of about 2–2½ cups of dairy each day.
Think easy access. Measure out healthy-snack portions into baggies or containers so they're available at home or to take on-the-go.
Remember: Many of these youngsters will be the service members of tomorrow, so let's fuel them well today to give them a good head start.