Snacking can lead to unhealthy eating habits that last a lifetime. Keep these tips in mind when making decisions about the snacks you and your children eat.
- Snacks are optional. Kids don’t always need to eat a snack between meals – and neither do you. Teach your kids to listen to hunger signals and snack between meals only if they feel hungry.
- Snacks are not meals. Keep snacks small. A snack should consist of just one serving each of one or two food groups. Snacks should be eaten about 90 minutes to two hours before the next mealtime. When kids are allowed to snack endlessly, they may not eat many of the healthy foods served at mealtimes. To help control portions, you can use a small snack bowl or snack bags.
- Snacks don’t have to be snack foods. While crackers, cookies and other prepackaged items often are marketed as snack foods, they are not always the healthiest choices for kids. Use the opportunity when kids are hungry between meals to encourage healthy foods – fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
- Snacks should be limited. Kids often get hungry again quickly when they eat the wrong kinds of snacks. In order to make snacks filling, include one food that contains fiber (fruit, veggie or whole grain) and one food that contains lean protein (nuts, peanut butter, low-fat cheese, yogurt, low-fat milk or lean meat). Some great combinations of these foods can be found at 25 Healthy Snacks for Kids.
- Snacks should be served at the table. Kids often overeat when they are sitting in front of the TV or playing video games. Like meals, snacks should be served at the table with the TV off. This helps kids avoid distractions and concentrate on eating.
Learn more about healthy snacks at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
~Jennifer Crouse, RD, CD, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin