One healthy eating tip dietitians often stress to families is not to let children fill up on too many snacks or sugary drinks between meals. While appropriate snack portions and healthy snack choices can boost energy levels, supply needed nutrients, and help prevent overeating during meals, too much snacking – or snacking only on items full of sugar, sodium and fat – provides unneeded calories and can lead to pickiness at mealtimes because children simply aren’t hungry when they come to the table.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, CHoR’s dietitians would like to share information on sensible snacking from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle” campaign. Each March, the Academy encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthful eating through National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme encourages families to adopt a healthy lifestyle focused on fewer calories, informed food choices and daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health. To learn more about making snacks a part of your family’s daily healthy eating plan – and how to make the best choices in terms of the foods you select – check out their articles on sensible snacking and informed food-selection choices from this year’s campaign.
More on sensible snacking
Snacks can help children meet their energy and nutrient needs for their active and growing bodies. A good rule of thumb is to try to provide a snack that provides protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Protein and fiber will keep them full and carbohydrates will provide energy.
A snack is generally considered to be between 100 to 200 calories. Check the serving size on the label under Nutrition Facts to be sure calories are appropriate for a snack.
Make a snack drawer. Buy bulk containers of nuts, pretzels, raisins and other healthy snack items and portion out individual snack bags. Designate a drawer in your kitchen for these easy-to-grab, healthy (and inexpensive!) snacks.
Watch portion sizes when serving peanut butter or nuts. A snack size serving for peanut butter is one tablespoon for children and two tablespoons for teens, while for nuts it is two tablespoons for children and one ounce (a moderate handful) for teens.
Look for granola bars that are low in sugar, have more than 2 grams of fiber and protein, and contain wholesome ingredients like oats or whole wheat flour.
Healthy snack favorites
- Trail mix, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts
- Individual peanut butter (or almond butter) packets paired with apples, bananas and other fruits
- Squeezable applesauce and other fruits that don’t require a spoon
- Granola bars (Fiber One Protein Peanut Butter Bar and Nature Valley Salted Caramel Protein Bar are both good options.)
- Greek yogurt tubes
- Individual containers of hummus with fresh vegetables or whole grain crackers
- Low fat string cheese or individually packaged cheese squares
- Low fat chocolate milk in single-serve cartons – pour over ice to make a special snack treat!