Kids are busy little things and they get hungry… often! Their growing bodies often need three main meals and 2-4 snacks a day, and those snacks play no small part in fulfilling their nutritional needs.
When trying to make healthy and fresh food choices, snack time is often the hardest!
There are so many options for snacks, and the availability of packaged snacks can sometimes get in the way of making healthy food choices. We don’t tend to plan snacks as much as we do main meals, and snack foods are expected to be available quickly and easily.
You know the scenario: Your toddler is tired and has just decided that they want a snack right now. Or, you picked up your child from school and they are supposedly starving. Or, your little one just spotted the colourful package of the teddy bear cookies as you were handing out a piece of cucumber…
So how do you encourage healthy snacking? Here are some tips:
1. Avoid packaged food
When kids eat many packaged foods as snacks, they tend to expect snacks in wrappers. Try to introduce a wider variety of snacks that you prepare yourself, for example, lots of fruit and veggies, healthy muffins, smoothies, seeds and nuts. Try making your own popcorn, smoothies or sweet potato chips! You can also offer leftovers as a snack, or make a small portion of something you would normally serve as a main meal (e.g. soup, sandwich, prawns, salad, eggs, pasta). Make big batches and stock up your freezer with homemade goodies!
2. Keep healthy food at home, and hide those treats!
The easiest way to eat healthily is to avoid buying unhealthy foods in the first place.
If there is no junk food available and your child is hungry, they will have to choose a healthy alternative, or go without. If your child sees their favourite snack, this is what they will want, healthy or not!
If you keep treats or unhealthy snacks at home,
move them to a place that is not accessible to your child.
This will give you more control over when you want to offer them.
3. Declare fruit and vegetables ‘anytime food’
Let your child know that they can have a piece of fresh fruit or vegetable anytime. Even just before dinner! One serving rarely fills you up enough to replace a meal or ruin your appetite. When your child is hungry between meals and snacks, let them choose a fruit or vegetable. If you child is impatient before dinner, you can also offer the vegetables you were planning to serve with the main meal as an entrée.
4. Make healthy snack containers
Kids love to choose! You can keep healthy snack containers in your pantry and fridge for your child to choose from. Include plenty of variety every week, and by the end of the week, your child will have had the opportunity to make choices and eat a variety of healthy snacks. Ask your child to help you fill the containers, and praise them for making healthy choices.
5. A nourished body is a happy body
When we feel hungry, we need nutritious food. I often remind my kids that when they are hungry, even for a snack, their body is always asking for good food. Healthy snacks will help their body make lots of energy to play, think and feel happy. Keep promoting those healthy eating messages, and they’ll eventually guide their food choices.
What’s your child’s favourite healthy snack?
This article was first published on Kids On The Coast