Snacks between meals can give kids an energy boost — keeping them alert and engaged in school, and providing enough fuel to be active. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends three meals and at least two snacks each day for younger kids. Older kids should get at least one snack in addition to three meals (or two snacks, if they’re playing sports or going through a growth spurt).
Of course, you shouldn’t give your child total freedom to raid the kitchen between meals. Follow these simple guidelines so you know how to serve them well-balanced, healthy snacks:
What’s in a Healthy Snack?
Just like you put together breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that include several food groups — carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables — that nutrient balance is the goal for snacks, too. This approach can be especially helpful for picky eaters who might miss out on key nutrients at mealtimes
- Carrot sticks (a carbohydrate and vegetable) with hummus (a protein and healthy fat)
- Banana or apple slices (carbs and fruit) with a spoonful of nut butter (protein and healthy fat)
- Whole-wheat pita (a carbohydrate) topped with tomato sauce (a veggie) and low-fat cheese (a healthy fat and protein) for a healthy take on pizza
- Greek yogurt (a carbohydrate, protein, and healthy fat) topped with fruit. (Or you can blend the two with some ice cubes to make a smoothie.)
What about cookies, chips, and other pre-packaged snacks? They may come in small containers, but they’re usually full of sugar, salt, and empty calories. They won’t fuel your kids for long.
Eyes on Portion Size
Healthy snacking isn’t just about what they’re eating, but how much of it, too. After all, snacks should tide kids over until their next meal — not fill them up so much that they’re not hungry for that meal.
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