Are your kids eating the right snacks?
Kids are snacking more than ever. Years ago kids between the ages of 2 and 6 ate on average one snack a day between meals, but today, kids typically eat almost three. Some kids eat even more than that.
Snacks are an important part of their diet because kids have a smaller stomach and high energy needs. However, when kids are allowed to eat all day, it robs them of the chance to develop an appetite. If kids aren’t coming to the table at dinner time least a little hungry, they’re not as willing to try new foods.
Toddlers and preschoolers can go two to three hours between meals and snacks, older kids three to four. Parents should avoid on-the-go snacks- in the car and the pram, in the shopping cart, or as you’re going out the door as much as possible. This could make it harder for kids to eat the right amount because they’re distracted. Mindless eaters don’t have the chance to savour food or pay attention to their body’s hunger or fullness signals, which often end up over-eating or under-eating.
The right kinds of snacks are important as it’s a big part of their diet, you should also feel good about the snacks you give your child. Paediatrician, Dr Shire Singh, says while healthy snacks are excellent for kids, an occasional sweet treat now and then could teach them how to deal with moderation from a young age. “They know they’ve had it before and will have it again” when it comes to sweet things, where as children who are deprived of any sweet things, will sneakily try to have these.
“I’m not advocating children eating sugar, but one day, maybe, on the weekend,” Dr Singh said, kids sometimes want a sweet snack.
Dr Singh recommends adding snacks which are high in fibre. Children often don’t get enough fluids in the day, and tend to sometimes be a bit dehydrated, but fibre keeps them going.
“I’m not a person who advocates for juice, I don’t think it’s good for children,” she added. “If you really want to give your child juice, I’d dilute it with water.”
Dr Singh also recommended cutting up fruit and serving them in interesting shapes for kids. Fruit and vegetables are great snacks between meals, however, not all kids like them. While you can cut up some carrots, cucumber and celery for some kids, you may need to get creative with others. Full cream yoghurt with live cultures in them; that are organic is another health option, not your normal everyday yoghurt.
Other healthy examples are:
Popcorn: Popcorn actually has 4 grams of fibre per 3-cup serving, which makes it a filling snack.
Peanut butter: (The kind without added sugars and other kinds of fats) pairs perfectly with apples, bananas and whole-grain crackers or toast.
Cheese: It’s satisfying and flavourful.
Pizza: Another versatile snack, it’s much like a sandwich and you can choose many healthy toppings.
Pita or tortilla chips: It has filling fibre and can be a tasty vehicle for healthy dips, such as hummus, black bean dip or salsa.
While a lot of fruit snacks now say “made with real fruit” or “made with real fruit juice”, those claims still boil down to lots of added sugar; these sweets should not be viewed as snacks. Instead you can offer your child dried fruit.
Another thing to avoid, are energy drinks, especially when your child is sick.
“Parents phone me and say my child is looking weak, I’m going to go and get him some Lucozade,” Dr Singh added, “I tell them to please not do that.”
“Avoid energy drinks and things that are very colourful, anything highly coloured have dyes in them that are extremely toxic to children.”
Energy drinks and caffeinated drinks are very bad for kids. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. It can make people feel more alert and energetic. According to KidsHealth, it doesn’t take a lot of caffeine to produce these results in kids. A sixteen year old teen, was ruled by a coroner to have died from a caffeine overdose.
Dr Singh says it’s important to have a healthy middle with your child, because withholding sweet things “is creating a monster”.
Let them help you prepare the snacks and eat with them and they will be more receptive to healthy eating, Dr Singh advises.