Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Healthy Snacking for Children

Every kid loves a good snack. Unfortunately, many parents think that all snacking is bad and leads to weight gain. Although this might be the case with snacking on cookies, chips, and candy all day, healthy snacking is an important component of a child's nutrition. Childhood is a time of rapid growth, and meeting the nutritional needs associated with normal development is critical to a child's well-being. Since children have much smaller stomachs than adults, healthy snacking helps to provide nutrients between meals in order to help them meet their daily nutritional needs. The key is learning how to make healthy snack choices and avoid consuming too many snacks that are high in added sugars and low in nutrients.

Healthy snack choices can provide children with some of the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and calories they need for growth, energy, and overall good health. In fact, healthy snacks can satisfy nutrient gaps and provide up to one quarter of a child's daily energy needs. Healthy snacking satisfies hunger between meals, improves concentration, and prevents overeating at mealtime.

Try to keep snack portions small and less than 250 calories. Small portions are especially important for those occasional snacks that contain lots of added sugars and are low in nutritional value.

Serve regular meals and snacks every three to four hours. Allowing adequate time between meals and snacks will ensure that children are not too full to eat their meals. Structured meals and snacks also will keep kids from eating out of boredom. Avoid using food as a reward or as way to calm an upset child to prevent emotional eating later on.

Buying snacks from a vending machine or grabbing a bag of chips or cookies is usually an unhealthy temptation for families on the go. Be prepared by having healthy snacks on hand to make it easier for your child to make smart snack choices.

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