Healthy snacking for your kids

by Jenny Kinne MS, RD, LDN, CLC, clinical nutrition specialist in Gastroenterology/Nutrition.

boy appleIt’s that time of day again, when the kids arrive home eagerly looking through the cupboards for a snack.  As a dietitian I am often asked if snacks are a healthy part of a balanced diet as many think of snacks as being “junk food”. Snacks actually are a good way to fit in healthy foods that are lacking during mealtimes. Below are some helpful tips for incorporating healthy snacks during the day to keep up with the nutritional needs of growing children.

  • Consider a snack a “mini meal”. Try combining 2 food groups to create a hunger satisfying snack.  For example fruit mixed with low fat yogurt.
  • Snacks are important part of the day to fill in nutritional gaps. Children often get full easily and miss out on key food groups at meal times. If they did not eat a fruit or vegetable at mealtime offer as a snack.
  • Plan a sit down snack time midway between meals. This will help children regulate their hunger and fullness cues.
  • It is important to recognize that every child is different. Some kids may only need 1 snack while others may have 2-3 during the day.
  • Avoid grazing; this can lead to a poor appetite when it is time to sit down for a meal.
  • Planning ahead is key to providing healthy snacks. This will help you make healthy options readily available at home and prevent your child from buying junk food on the go at corner stores, vending machines or gas stations. Add healthy snack items to your weekly shopping list.
  • All foods can be part of a healthy diet. If your child does make an unhealthy snack choice, try to balance it out with a healthy meal later in the day.
  • Allow children to be part of the snack preparation process.

Here are some nutritious snack options that can be fun to prepare and taken on the go!

Apple slices with peanut butter Trail mix: ready to eat cereal mixed with dried fruit and nuts
Grape and low fat cheese kabobs on a pretzel stick Baby carrots and cherry tomatoes with ranch dressing or pita chips with hummus
Sprinkle parmesan cheese on popcorn Strawberry and apple slices dipped in low fat yogurt
Dip a banana in yogurt, cover in crushed cereal and freeze Ants on a log: spread celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese top with raisins