What makes a healthy snack?

What makes a healthy snack?

Carol Harrison Tips 1 Comment

Kids need snacks to meet their basic nutrient needs; snacks are not just a pit stop to tie them over until the next meal yet two thirds of Canadian kids are noshing on after-school snacks such as cookies, cereal bars, candies, fruit drinks, soft drinks, chocolates and cakes ringing in at about 200-350 calories per snack.*

For  healthier snacks think mini meals made with the same whole or minimally processed food that you packed for lunch.

Healthy Snacking Checklist:

  • Kids help plan and make snacks.
    Why? Kids will be more likely to eat them. Get you child to help make popcorn, a fruit smoothie or vegetable dip. Get your child to list snacks they like to eat using this Plan it! Pack it! Eat it! resource.
  • Snacks always include a vegetable and/or fruit PLUS food from 1-2 more food groups.
    Why? Most (60%) of kids don’t eat enough vegetables and fruit, so serve them regularly.
  • Snacks include a variety of whole, minimally processed foods.
    Why? Whole foods are naturally nutrient-rich, lower in calories, sodium and sugar and higher in fibre – just what the Dietitian ordered!

  • Pack up 1-2 snacks along with school lunches.
    Why? Kids need to eat about every 3 hours to keep energized and focused on learning.
  • Provide a variety of well matched flavours, colours, temperatures, textures (smooth/chunky, cooked/raw, crunchy/chewy) and shapes (shredded, strips, cubes, chunks, slices).
    Why? We are competing with all the crappy food marketed to kids so we need find ways to keep healthy snacks interesting.
  • Quench thirst with water first, not 100% juice/drinks/pop/cocktails/sports drinks/punch.
    Why? For less sugar and more fibre, kids should eat their fruit, not drink it. Kids get too many calories from sweetened drinks.
  • Offer dried fruit with meals, not snacks.
    Why? Dried fruit like raisons stick to our teeth and it’s higher in sugar… can you hear the dentist’s drill? In a mixed meal there’s a better chance some of those sticky bits get rubbed off or hopefully brushed off.

Any surprises in the checklist? Was it helpful?

Would you add anything to the checklist? I’d love to hear it.

Do you have any questions about snacking and kids? Email me!

See all  FAQs.

Reference: Jo-Anne Gilbert, Doris Miller, Shannon Olson, Sylvie St-Pierre. 2012. After-school Snack Intake Among Canadian Children and Adolescents. Canadian Journal of Public Health. Volume 103:6.

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