Snacking is often looked upon unfavourably, as something parents shouldn’t be allowing their children to have. I completely disagree…..
Kids need snacks at all stages throughout their childhood and adolescence. Toddlers and pre-schoolers have such tiny stomachs which means that they need to eat around 3 snacks per day in-between their meals in order to obtain enough of the critical nutrients that are required for growth and brain development. Typically this means eating something every 2-3 hours with a mid morning, mid afternoon and bedtime snack pattern.
Primary school age children can go a little longer as their stomachs are able to hold more food, and can last around 3-4 hours in between eating. They need two snacks per day in between meals typically mid morning and mid afternoon, in order to meet their nutritional needs.
Adolescents can go longer still at around 4-5 hours in between eating, and tend to be able to eat more at mealtimes to compensate. Usually only 1 or 2 snacks are required and this is generally based on their activity levels. Those who are sportier will need two snacks but those who are not may only need one.
Research tells us that snacking can be good for teaching your child about satiety – the feeling of fullness that comes after eating. We know that if their snacks contain the important nutrients fibre, protein and unsaturated fats then children will feel satisfied after eating, reducing the desire for further nibbling in between times.
Where I see it going wrong, is when kids are allowed to snack at times that suit them without routine, often filling up on snack foods and then not eating their meals. Having a structured routine can be really helpful.
Additionally offering the wrong kind of food at snack time can cause problems. When we think of snacking often unhealthy foods like chocolate bars, cakes or crisps spring to mind. Earlier this month the government launched their new campaign called “100 calorie snacks” to try and encourage parents to go for healthier choices and for children to eat less unhealthy foods. Unfortunately we don’t eat calories…we eat food and so I’m not convinced that this campaign is going to be very helpful without further explanation.
Your child’s snack is a great opportunity to ensure that he or she is topping up on those important nutrients they may not yet have already eaten that day, so make the most of it. Here’s my approach for successful snacking:
1. Include at least two items from different food groups in a snack – this means that you have a good opportunity to obtain those important nutrients.
2. Make the portion small – this will ensure that they’re not too full for their next meal.
3. Always include a source of protein – this affects satiety - it fills them up!
4. Kitchen is closed - no more food till the next meal.
So following my approach healthy snacks ideas you could offer your child are:
· Cheese (hard or soft) & buttered crackers
· A small bowl of unsweetened cereal & milk
· Fruit & yoghurt
· Peanut butter on wholegrain toast
· Pitta & houmous
· Veggie sticks & dip
· Yoghurt & Fruit based ice lolly
· Popcorn & a smoothie
· Cheese on toast
· Feta and olives
· Mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes
· Grapes and breadsticks
· Oatmeal & raisin cookie and milk
· Soup and a wholegrain roll
· Nuts & raisins
· Cold meat and buttered wholegrain crackers
· Milkshake & small piece of ‘Healthier Carrot Cake’
Note children under 5 should not eat whole nuts and grapes, cherry tomatoes and olives should be halved due to the risk of choking.
If you would like help planning your family’s meals and snacks, just get in touch. I’m always happy to help, and sign up to receive my newsletter, packed full of helpful tips and advice, direct to your inbox.