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Teach Kids How to Snack Healthy

A healthy diet is key to a child’s growth. To obtain proper development, it is vital kids eat healthy foods and snacks.

Kids need to eat every three to four hours, particularly if they are going through a growth spurt. This may explain your child’s after-school cravings. Younger children will want to snack more often because their stomachs are smaller. Young kids should eat three meals a day and two snacks, while older children need to consume three meals a day and one snack for adequate nutrition.  If they are very physically active or going through a growth spurt, older children may also need two snacks per day.

Be wary giving highly processed foods as snack as they can contain high amounts of sugar, trans fat, sodium and refined starch, and may be low in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that 70% of food energy from meals taken to school from home was highly processed. Foods categorized as snack foods and desserts contributed the greatest percentage of total energy to the highly processed category (72% and 69%, respectively). Additionally, energy from foods brought for snacks tended to be more highly processed than those brought for lunch as well.

Remember snacks are not meals and should not be served as meal replacements. Portion control is important for healthy snacking. Think of the size of snack-size storage bags compared to other sizes of storage bags. Remember, younger kid’s stomachs are smaller, so they will get full on smaller portions than older kids.

Set aside a designated “snack zone” like a kitchen counter or dining room table for your children to eat their snack. Limiting where they can snack allows you to keep an eye on how much and what they are eating as well as helps you avoid finding crumbs and half-eaten food throughout your house. Do not let them snack while watching television, as this encourages mindless eating. 

Have healthy snack options readily available for your children. To help with busy weeks, you can portion out fruits, vegetables, nuts, raisins and other healthy foods in snack-size bags during the weekend. Place healthy snacks at your child’s eye level in the refrigerator where they can easily see them.  Keep fresh fruit like bananas, apples, peaches and mandarin oranges visible on your counter. Placing these foods where children can see them will help your child choose healthy options compared to high-fat, high sugar and empty calorie snacks and drinks.

Don’t get upset if they turn their noses up at a nutritious snack. Research has shown that kids might have to try something 10-15 times before they accept it.

And don’t make it all about the children’s diets. Make healthy meals a part of the whole family’s diet. Children are more likely to eat foods they help grow, select and prepare. Remember, parents are powerful role models. 

For more information, contact the Butler Cooperative Extension Service at 102 Parkway Lane, Morgantown, KY or call 270-526-3767.

Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

 

By: Tracy Cowles, County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Source: Heather Norman-Burgdolf, Assistant Extension Professor

 

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