Is snacking healthy for kids?

Research indicates that 27 percent of children’s daily calories may come from snack foods. Snacking can be healthy if it is incorporated with nutrition and physical activity.

“I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?” If you have kids, you’ve probably heard this more times than you can count. Gone are the days of “no snacking between meals.” In fact, snacking is a major past time for many kids.

Research shows that snacking patterns have increased dramatically over the last 25 to 30 years. In 1977 to 1978, 74 percent of children, ages 2 to 18, snacked on foods outside of regular meals, compared to 98 percent from 2003 to 2006. Other studies on childhood snacking indicate a trend moving towards three snacks per day with more than 27 percent of children’s daily calories coming from this source. Childhood obesity is a major concern in this country and may have some adults worried and wondering if snacking should be encouraged.

The truth is – snacks are good for kids. Youth need to refuel their bodies, especially when they’re physically active. Running, riding a bike, playing sports, etc. takes energy. Young children have smaller stomachs and may need to eat more often than adults. For parents and caregivers, the important thing to remember is to have plenty of nutritious snack foods on hand and to teach and model the importance of snacking when hungry, not using food as a reward and not eating when bored.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following healthy snack ideas for hungry kids:

  • Whole wheat cereal with milk and fruit
  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit and/or granola
  • Peanut butter sandwich with banana slices
  • Milk and a granola bar
  • Vegetable soup and whole wheat crackers
  • Apple slices with peanut butter or yogurt for dipping
  • Microwaved potato topped with low-fat cheese and broccoli

For additional snack ideas or to learn more about healthy eating check out the following websites:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips.html

http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/snack_attack.html

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