Snacks are a great way to fill in the nutritional gaps of children’s diets, because let’s face it: Kids can be picky eaters. But there’s a lot of snack food on the market that isn’t doing much good. If you’re dedicated to healthy eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s no reason to look over the importance of nutritious snacks for your kids. If you’re not sure exactly what makes a snack a good addition to a healthy lifestyle, check out some of these characteristics of healthy snacks.
According to WebMD, there’s some debate about how many calories a healthy snack should have, but a good rule of thumb is to keep snacks around 100 calories for smaller children and 300 calories for older kids. Judge how hungry your children are to help you decide how much they need. Some days, 100 calories might do the trick, while other times they might be more satisfied by a 300-calorie snack.
Healthy carbs are a great addition to snack time.
Carbohydrates are essential for boosting energy, but refined carbs like you’d find in white rice or white bread don’t have the nutrients that their whole-grain counterparts do. They can cause spikes in blood sugar that can give your kids short-term bursts of energy, but soon after snack time is over they could crash. Keep their blood sugar balanced and their energy levels constant by offering whole-grains like whole-wheat bread, low-fat popcorn, whole-wheat pretzels and whole-grain cereal at snack time. As an added bonus, your kids will get the fiber they need to digest their food properly and stay full until their next meal.
Protein is another nutrient necessary for energy levels, and protein-rich snacks can help your kids feel full until lunch or dinner. A small handful of nuts, low-fat and reduced-sodium brands of turkey, ham and roast beef deli meat, and grilled chicken can all be good options.
"Don't rule out frozen fruits that you can put in smoothies."
Fruits and vegetables
You probably knew this one was coming. Many kids don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, which means a snack is a great excuse to get a couple of extra servings in. Kids often have an easier time eating fruit because it tastes sweet. Serve it fresh whenever possible, but don't rule out frozen fruits that you can put in smoothies or thaw out and toss on top of low-fat yogurt. Serve veggies with fun, healthy dips like hummus, guacamole or salad dressing. You can even sneak some veggies, like spinach, into smoothies without altering the taste.
Healthy fats are good for your kids in moderation, and they can get a lot of what they need from foods like nuts, fish, seeds and avocados. To make sure they're not getting a lot of unhealthy fats, use low-fat dairy products in their snacks. They'll get the calcium and other important nutrients they need to grow without all the bad stuff. Try foods like yogurt, cheese, milk and eggs.