As a parent or caregiver, the health of your child is in your hands. And when your kiddos are asking for snacks multiple times a day, it can be a challenge to know what to do. Do kids need snacks at all?
You might ask “How do I get my kiddos to eat healthier snacks, not just the sugary, processed snacks they keep asking about?” This is a really common struggle – if this sounds like your house, please know that you’re not alone.
One of the best ways to help children develop healthy habits and healthy bodies is to provide healthy food for them when they are young.
In this blog post, we will discuss 5 ways that you can improve your child’s snacking habits so that they get the nutrition they need while still enjoying the snacks that you’re offering!
Children need snacks in order to maintain healthy energy levels and to get the nutrients their growing bodies need. In general, I recommend that you offer your younger children three meals and three snacks daily. As kids get older, 1-2 snacks per day may be enough.
However, not all snacks are created equal. Many snacks that kids love or even that seem healthy, aren’t offering quite as much nutrition as you’d guess.
Many unhealthy snacks are high in added sugar and other nutrients that are not nourishing your child’s best health. That’s why it is important for parents to cultivate healthy habits, even at snack time.
There are many healthy snacks for kids that you can feed your child, but it’s important to know what healthy means. Healthy snacks can mean different things. I prefer that you focus on snacks that are low in added sugar and rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, most of the time.
It is also important to cultivate these healthy snacking habits now so that the habits can continue into adulthood.
With these five tips, you’ll have no problem teaching your child healthier snacking habits!
For optimal nutrition and satisfaction, I recommend that you offer different foods groups when giving your kiddos snacks. Not only does this give you the opportunity to make a more satisfying snack, but it also gives your child more variety throughout the day.
Some healthy food pairings are:
- Freeze-dried strawberries and dry cereal
- Crunchy chickpeas
- Carrots and tortilla chips dipped in guacamole
- Celery or sliced apples with nut butter
Offering more than one food item is also helpful for gently exposing picky eaters to different foods that might be out of their comfort zone for now. Keep the pressure off (no forcing a bite) and just make the experience fun.
And if your children are usually having processed and packaged snacks that you’d like to get away from, offer the new foods with the packaged snack instead of just taking the packaged snack away.
It takes anyone a while to get used to something that feels new. And for kids – especially our picky eaters – new can mean scary and uncomfortable!
Think about carrots. Baby carrots are one way to offer carrots to your kiddos as a snack, but there are other options, too!
You can also offer carrots as a pureed pouch with carrots in the mix, shredded carrots for a different texture, roasted carrots for a different flavor, and even peels of a large carrot (feel free to call them ribbons!).
Each time your child has a chance to get to know the food in a low-pressure environment, it helps to build their confidence and eventually try it (and maybe even like it!).
If you’re working on new foods, snack time is a great opportunity because if they don’t eat much (or any) of the new food, dinner is right around the corner. By the time dinner is here, everyone tends to be more tired and less patient, so it can feel more difficult to make progress at that time.
When offering new foods at snack time, keep the portions of the new food small. For your child, it makes the experience less overwhelming.
And if age-appropriate, use toothpicks or other fun tools to serve the food. This keeps the experience more fun and playful for our kids, especially kids who can get overloaded with too much sensory information.
One of my favorite ways to offer after-school snacks is to serve them in on a skewer like a fruit or veggie kebab OR in a fancy cupcake liner!
You know what’s fun and lower pressure? Exploring!
Instead of forcing your child to “just take a bite,” make the new food feel fun. This is lower pressure and more fun for everyone, not just your kiddo.
Try buying a few different varieties of a new food next time you’re at the grocery store. For example, four or five different kinds of apples. And during an afternoon when you have some free time, ask your child to describe how the apples are different in terms of size, color, and smell.
Which one smells the best?
Next: cut very tiny slices of each type of apple and invite your child to try them. Which apple is the sweetest? Most sour? Crunchiest?
Have fun ranking and exploring: this is way more fun than commanding your child to try a bite!
Tip 5: Involve your child
The more that you’re able to offer your child the opportunity to be involved, the better. For example, if you’re shopping for healthy snacks at the grocery store, ask your child which two healthy snacks they want to try this week.
Next: You can also offer choices when it comes to how foods are prepared. For example, would your child like their apple sliced or diced? Would you like a knife skills class to show exactly what this might look like? Would they like to eat it with a dip, like a nut butter?
Kids can do far more tasks in the kitchen than most parents would guess. Will it be slower and messier to get them involved? At first: yes! But with time, their skills will grow (and the mess will slowly diminish).
Your child is going to be more open-minded about foods that they’ve helped to prepare.
• Chopped raw vegetables and dip
• Chunks of avocado, cucumber, or cooked sweet potato
• Breadsticks or pita chips with hummus
• Pretzels or popcorn
• Tortilla chips with bean dip
• Whole-grain o’s, granola, or other cereal in a bag
• Toasted whole-grain breads or crackers with fruit spread
or nut butters
• Graham crackers or gingersnaps dipped in applesauce
• Mini rice cakes with peanut butter
• Apple slices with almond butter
• Fresh fruits
• Dried fruits
• Frozen bananas blended with a little nondairy milk
• Applesauce or other fruit cups
• Nuts, especially mixed with dried fruit
• Plant-based yogurt
• Individual boxes of soy milk, almond milk, or pure fruit
• Homemade muffins or cornbread
• Ramen soup with added vegetables • Fresh soybeans (edamame)
• Bite-sized tofu
Being a parent in an environment with so many snack option can be very difficult. By partnering with a registered dietitian, you will learn how to conquer snack time with proven strategies to reach your health goals to nourish your family’s health…even at snack time! I can’t wait to show you how!
As a health coach and chef, I offer kid friendly cooking & nutrition classes as well as tips for parents and caregivers of children. How about a Pantry Makeover? Contact me for more information and sign up for a FREE copy of Healthy Snacks for Kids.
Shield, Jo Ann. Kids Eat Right (2019, March 4). When Should My Kids Snack?