To Snack or Not to Snack
Posted Jun 16, 2005.
Patricia Faughn, M.Ed
University of Illinois Extension
Snacks are a fact of life for young children. Eating between meals or snacking is as
commonplace for them as bedtime. It is estimated that
they eat 10-12 times a day.
What snacks are a good choice, and does it matter?
When snacks are chosen from nutritious foods, they can
supply important nutrients for your child. With increasing
food costs, it becomes more important to get the best
total nutrition out of your food dollar. With more mothers
working outside the home and an increase in activities
for young children, there is less time to prepare meals
and to supervise the preparation of snacks. Ready-to-
eat, heat-and-serve foods, an abundance of junk snacks,
as well as meals outside the home, make it easy to have a poor diet.
Children have high-energy needs. Their bodies are growing and their activity level is
high. Their stomachs are also small. It is hard for them to last from one meal to the
next. Besides extra calories, snacks can provide children with other nutrients that
may not be completely furnished in regular meals. Snacks should be based on
nutritional value, supplying vitamins, minerals, protein, and carbohydrates.
Another important role for snacks is to develop good eating habits. Through parent
examples, a child can learn proper food choices early in life, preferably by age 5 or
6. Don’t overlook the social factor. Social interactions of children may be influenced
by a planned or an unplanned snack. Food also satisfies the physiological needs.
When choosing snacks, consider:
The nutritional value. Is the food from one of the 5 major food groups in the Food Guide
The number of calories. Snacks need to be low in sugar and fat.
The ease. Make it easy for your children to ‘grab and eat’.
The time. Plan snacks not to interfere with meals.
The appeal. Snacks should be colorful and flavorful.
Try these simple nutritious snacks you can make with your child:
Ants on a log—celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins
Trail mix—peanuts, dry cereal, pretzels, and raisins
Shape sandwiches—cut bread with cookie cutters and top with cheese, peanut butter, or lean
Yogurt--with fruit and granola on top
Dreamcycles--Frozen yogurt and orange juice in popcycle tray or paper cups
Spiders—round crackers with peanut butter and stick pretzels
Healthy snacks help your child develop good eating habits.