Snacking for kids can be tricky. They’re growing fast, so they crave calories all day long. But the key is to minimize sugar, fat and sodium while maximizing fiber, protein, and whole grains. When the right snacks are offered at the right time, they can be really helpful managing blood sugar and boosting nutrition.
What Are the Benefits of Healthy Snacking Habits For Kids?
The best snacks are low in sugar, fat, and salt—fruits, vegetables, and foods with whole grains and protein. One of the best ways to ensure healthy eating habits for children is to model it. So make a point to eat with them! If they’re picky at mealtimes, snacks are a great way to pack in some extra nutrition. Maintain a structured schedule for yourself and for your children to prevent hangry moods and help your child learn to decide how much to eat and when.
Toddlers usually eat five to six times a day—three small meals and two or three snacks. Offer snacks at the same time each day—small children find routine reassuring—and give two or three choices so that they feel a sense of control. Try fruit, low-sugar cereals, graham crackers, cheese, applesauce, or yogurt.
Don’t use sweets to reward good behavior. This creates a hierarchy of foods and teaches that desserts are more desirable than other food. Don’t skip snack time and try to cram food in too close to mealtime when the child is upset. This will fill her up and prevent her from trying new foods during the meal.
Preschoolers love the ability to control their environments, so allow them to choose snacks, too. As they become exposed to sweets and desserts, they’ll be tempted to choose sugary snacks, so offer healthier options. Try fruit, applesauce, yogurt, sliced vegetables, or cheese and crackers. Since they’re becoming more verbal they’ll often claim hunger when they’re actually bored, tired, or need some attention. If you maintain a regular snack schedule, you can determine whether they’re truly hungry or if hunger is masking another need.
Older children are busy and more independent, but many still require one to two snacks on top of their three daily meals. An after-school snack is a great way to power them through homework, clubs, and sports before dinner. Make healthy, convenient snacks accessible, easy for them to pack or grab as they run out the door. Try cereal, string cheese, smoothies, trail mixes with nuts, veggies and hummus, pretzels, and fruit.
Healthy snacking for teenagers is challenging because they’re the most independent, with access to cars and spending money. Encourage nutrition by keeping healthy options in the house and modeling healthy eating in front of them. Trail mix, veggies with hummus, low-fat granola bars, fruit and dried fruit, trail mix, popcorn, and hard boiled eggs are all great options that maximize protein and fiber.
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