Just like adults, kids need between-meal snacks to fuel their active bodies. Healthy snacks are more than empty calories and supply a significant portion of a child’s daily nutrition.
And, just like adults, kids often reach for food when what they really are is thirsty. So offer water first, then a child-size snack portion of a nutritious food. The snack, whether mid-morning or mid-afternoon, is not intended to completely satisfy hunger but to tide the child over to the next meal.
Milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt are satisfying snacks and a good source of calcium for children who are not allergic to dairy. Smoothies—small ones, please—can be a naturally sweet treat. Hard-boiled eggs can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for a week.
Fruit provides more nutrition than fruit juice and is more filling. Slicing the fruit makes it easier and, in the case of some fruits such as grapes, safer for little ones. Offering a wide variety of seasonal fruits will help your child avoid getting into that old apple-banana rut.
Crunchy raw vegetables, sometimes served with a nutritious dip, make an excellent snack. Cooked vegetables that are delicious cold, such as sweet potatoes and butternut squash, can be enjoyed by children of any age.
Other possibilities are: nuts, nut butters, seeds, beans; natural popcorn; low-sugar, whole-grain cereals; homemade muffins and cookies that are very low in sugar and contain healthful ingredients such as pumpkin, squash or carrots. Children who are not accustomed to sugary treats will not miss them.
Get into the habit of packing wholesome snacks for on-the-go eating, as well as keeping them on hand at home. It will cut down on the number of times your child is tempted by the sugary, salty convenience foods so readily available everywhere.