The importance of healthy snacking for kids

December 29, 2015

Healthy eating is essential for a child's growth and development. Ensuring that your little one is receiving all of the essential vitamins, minerals, protein and calories that he needs to grow strong and healthy isn't always easy. Yet, it's important to teach these healthy eating habits early on, especially when it comes to snacking.

"Healthy snacking helps to prevent overeating at mealtime."

The importance of healthy snacking
Many parents are led to believe that snacking is unhealthy for children. While this rings true if snacking involves excess salt, sugar and sodium from candy, chips and cookies, snacking that consists of healthy foods is actually good for your little one. In fact, healthy snacking between mealtimes is beneficial for a child's development, according to the University of Florida. Providing your child with snacks that are rich in protein and nutrients throughout the day will help him to reach his daily nutritional needs, which are crucial during this time of such fast growth and development. According to the source, healthy snacking also helps to prevent overeating during meals, provides more energy, aids in concentration and keeps children feeling full between breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Choosing healthy snacks
With so many misleading advertisements and labels these days, it can be tricky to determine what is actually considered a healthy snack. Using the nutrition facts label on the back of products can help you make informed decisions when purchasing healthy snacks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises choosing snacks that are high in the important nutrients iron, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and dietary fiber. Limiting the intake of snacks that are high in calories, trans and saturated fats and sugar is important too.

The University of Florida suggests combining food from two or more of the food groups when it comes to creating a healthy snack for your little one. A snack of whole-grain crackers with peanut butter or apple slices with cheese satisfy different food groups, for example. There are also a number of easy, healthy alternatives to many of the popular, unhealthy kids' snacks.

Involving your child in the shopping process is another way to promote healthy snacking.Involving your child in the shopping process is another way to promote healthy snacking.

Healthy snack ideas for kids
Now that you know the importance and benefits of healthy snacking, you'll probably want to learn about as many possible light bites and refreshments as possible. Snacks that incorporate fruits and vegetables, healthy grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products are great options. Here are several ideas for bringing these nutrients into snack time:

  • Colorful fruit salad or fruit skewers.
  • Whole-grain pretzels, soy crisps, baked pita chips or rice cakes with a slice of cheese.
  • Carrots and hummus.
  • Apple slices dipped in peanut butter.
  • Baked whole-grain crackers with almond butter served with all natural fruit juice, like good2grow 100% juice.
  • Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins. 
  • Smoothie made with milk, low-fat yogurt, banana and other colorful berries.
  • Mini pizzas on English muffins.
  • Low-fat yogurt topped with chopped fruit and granola.
  • Trail mix with unsalted nuts, dried fruit and healthy grains.
  • Sliced vegetables such as cucumbers and peppers with hummus or fat-free dressing dip.

Healthy snacks before bed
According to What to Expect, giving your child a snack before a nap or prior to bedtime can help to promote a sounder sleep. During the night, a toddler's blood sugar can dip and cause him to wake up earlier than normal, according to the source. Eating a snack of protein and carbs before going to sleep will enable your child to settle down sooner and sleep more soundly through the night. Suggestions include a graham cracker and glass of milk, cheese and crackers or whole-grain, fiber-rich cereal without milk.

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