The science of snacking – healthy or harmful?
Snacking tends to get a bad press; especially given the concerns over childhood obesity and the fact that half the sugar children eat comes from snacks and drinks. But is snacking really that bad? Nutritionist Charlie Parker gives us her thoughts on the subject of kids snacking. ?
There’s nothing wrong with snacking per se, it’s about choosing the right kind of snacks at the right time. Young children have small tummies and it can be hard to fill up sufficiently at meal times, so snacks can play an important role.
They provide energy in-between meals, manage hunger, and avoid blood sugar dips, all of which help avoid ‘hangry’ children…and as a mum of 3 I know how important it is to avoid this!
They can also help children from over eating at meal times and the right snacks can provide a nutritious boost, helping them achieve their recommended daily intake of various nutrients, especially important if they are picky eaters.
Charlie Parker, Nutritionist
Charlie Parker’s Top Ten Tips on Healthy Snacking for Kids ⚡
- Offer your child variety & choice – Make it easy for children to choose the right snacks by stocking up on a variety of healthier food and drinks at home. Tempt children to try new foods.
- Keep timing consistent – Establish a predictable schedule for snacks, timing them well in-between meals so they don’t affect the child appetite at meal times, as rough guide allow about 2-3 hours between snacks and meals. Midmorning and mid afternoon/after school.
- Watch out for portion size – Offer age appropriate portions, for smaller children you may find this resource useful and this one for older children.
- Calories matter – Go with snacks that are around 100 calories or less, and stick with 2 a day max.
- Don’t feed them too much sugar – Look for snacks that are ‘low’ or ‘no added sugar’, or limit the sugar containing snacks to one a day and high sugar snacks to once-in-a-while.
- Keep their salt intake down – Avoid high salt snacks; look for those with green traffic lights for salt.
- Feed them fibre – Fill up on fibre with fruit and veg snacks or wholegrain or brown varieties of starchy carbs.
- Make sure they get their 5-a-day – Aim for at least one snack to contain a portion of fruit and/or veg. Find out what counts as 1 of their 5 here.
- Don’t reward or pacify with unhealthy snacks – Avoid using ‘treaty’ snacks as a reward or to pacify a child as this can give the wrong message about food.
- Involve the kids – Get the kids involved in preparing snacks, this can make them a lot more engaged and likely to try new foods.
About Charlie Parker, Nutritionist
Charlie is an experienced nutritionist and mother of three. One of her great passions is children’s nutrition. Not only does she know the theory but she’s had many years of putting it into practice working with food companies as well as practical hands-on experience with her own children. www.charlieparkernutrition.co.uk