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Doesn’t it seem like our child’s days revolve around eating? It’s true! Children are hungry little ones and rightfully so because their bodies are growing so quickly and they have endless energy that needs fueling! Kids’ little tummies can only hold so much at mealtime. Three meals are important to maintain structure in a child’s diet, but snacks are important to help bridge their nutrition in-between meals.

Healthy, kid-approved snacks are a great way to ensure that children receive a balanced diet. Snacks not only provide calories, but can also provide important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients. Use these five tips to make perfect healthy snacks that any child (or adult) will be sure to eat.

Food group pairings

In order to help kids eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups, try to incorporate at least 2 food groups in a snack. Check out the following examples of kid-friendly snack ideas that pair different food groups:

  • Protein + grain = hard-boiled egg + crackers
  • Vegetable + protein = baby carrots + hummus
  • Fruit + protein = apple + peanut butter
  • Dairy + fruit = yogurt + berries

In order to help kids eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups, try to incorporate at least 2 food groups in a snack. Check out the following examples of kid-friendly snack ideas that pair different food groups:

The meaning of snack size

Children’s stomachs are small and since they empty quickly, children need small portions frequently throughout the day. It’s important to maintain meal size and snack size though, and avoid letting children snack or “graze” all day long. If children are allowed to nibble on snacks throughout the day, they miss out on feeling hungry and full. These important cues for children to learn. Of course many children would love to snack on chips, cookies, or other snacks with little vitamins and minerals. If children snack throughout the day, they never get hungry enough for a nutritious meal. It’s then more difficult to fit in healthy foods. Check out the following snack size tips:

  • Use small bowls and side plates and avoid eating directly from the bag or container. For example, portion out crackers in a small bowl or divide a portion of pretzels on a side plate.
  • Return the bag, box, or container back to the cupboard or pantry after serving snacks. For example, after serving crackers, close the box and return it back to the pantry to avoid second servings.
  • Use reusable storage containers or snack-size bags for portioning. For example, store trail mix in snack-size containers or bags.

Pre-portion snacks to grab and go

Now that we have snack size in mind, pre-portioning snacks and storing them in the pantry or refrigerator can save you time. This also helps to ensure that older children and teenagers grab appropriate portions instead of eating directly from the container. When days are busy, pre-portioned snacks help to save time and ensure healthy choices are made. For example, instead of heading for the cookies in the cupboard, having pre-washed grapes portioned in snack bags in the refrigerator makes it easier to eat a healthy snack on the go. Having ready-to-go foods such as clementines, pistachios, boxed raisins, or bananas make it easy for travel. Grab pre-portioned or ready-to-go snacks before a day of shopping, when running to activities after school or work, or have them on hand after sports or other children’s activities.

Get those little hands to help!

Many children love to help and snacks are a perfect opportunity to include them in the kitchen. Children are also more inclined to try a new food if they are involved in picking or preparing it. Children can portion popcorn into snack bags or count celery sticks into snack containers. If you have a picky eater, this is a prime opportunity to give them control. For example, if your child often declines vegetables, you can say, “what would you like with your hummus: sliced peppers or baby carrots?”  As the adult, you ensure a vegetable will be included, but it gives the child some control.

Out of sight out of mind

If there are snack foods that cause confrontation in your home, avoid having them in the house altogether. For example, if candy is in the home and children know it’s available, then it’s more difficult to encourage children to have a healthier snack. If only healthy snack options fill the kitchen, then the options for sugary snacks won’t be there. This change is helpful for not only children, but adults too!

Now that you’re snack smart, use these tips and ideas to make the healthiest kid-friendly snacks for your family. When you meet with your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian, you will review additional healthy snack ideas that are individualized for you and your family to help you meet your goals. We look forward to working with you!

-Elizabeth Fay, MS, RDN, CNSC