Snacks are extremely important for young children as they are constantly growing, but can’t hold as much food as adults. But the snacks you provide do make a difference.
Chips, cookies and other non-nutritious items are fine now and then. But ideally, snacks should be low in sugar, fat and salt to keep your kids energized throughout the day. A snack should provide about 100-150 calories and should not fill you up to the point of skipping a meal. Limit snacks and beverages with artificial colors as these have been linked with hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.
Studies show that early childhood nutrition positively affects food choices throughout adulthood. Take your kids with you when you shop and let them help prepare food at home. Below are some quick snacks for kids to enjoy any time.
#1. Fresh fruit. High in fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium. Choose grapes, apples, pears or other seasonal fruit.
#2. Veggies and hummus. Ranch dressing isn’t the only dip for fresh veggies. Dip carrot sticks, celery, cucumber slices and grape tomatoes in hummus for a great source of fiber, protein and folic acid.
#3. Low fat yogurt. Yogurt is not only a great source of calcium and vitamin D, it’s also got protein, potassium and “friendly” bacteria to keep your child illness-free throughout the year. Look for low sugar, 4 oz. servings.
#4. Raisins or dried cranberries. A great source of antioxidants, these tiny gems can be eaten at room temperature, or tossed in oatmeal or salads.
#5. Mini bagels. High in complex carbohydrates, mini bagels are great for a quick breakfast or after school snack. Look for whole wheat and serve with natural peanut butter, hummus or low-fat cream cheese.
#6. Sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of zinc and protein, 2 nutrients that affect immunity. Mix them with Cheerios for a quick trail mix, or serve solo.
#7. Cheese sticks. Cheese sticks are a great grab and go snack and need no preparation. Serve them with whole wheat crackers or on the side with some fresh fruit.
#8. Mini pretzels. Pretzels can be purchased in convenient 100 calorie packs and provide complex carbohydrates for your kids to fuel their brains. Pair them with hummus, cheese cubes or peanut butter to boost protein content.
#9. Trail mix. Rather than packing sugary granola bars, mix some Chex or Cheerios together with your favorite nuts and dried fruit. Enjoy a cold glass of milk on the side.
#10. Peanut butter toast. Toast is not just for breakfast. Have a slice of whole wheat or multi-grain bread and a little natural peanut butter to give you an afternoon boost.