Mealtime isn’t the only opportunity during the day to provide kids with nutrition. In fact, little kids have smaller stomachs and may respond better to small amounts of food at regular intervals throughout the day.
This is a technical way of saying that it’s OK for kids to snack, but it’s best when mealtimes and snack times follow a routine, says Sarah Woodside, Director of Communication and registered dietitian at United Dairy Industry of Michigan.
“Snacking can help provide nutrients and calories kids need to grow, but you’ll want to be sure those snacks don’t interfere with your child’s hunger at mealtime,” Woodside says.
According to Woodside, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that while all kids need three nutritious meals each day, younger kids can benefit from a couple of carefully chosen snacks, too. Unless they are going through a growth spurt, older kids need just one snack.
“Just make sure the snack you offer is nutritious,” Woodside says. Offer one item from two or three different food groups. “A good example would be yogurt and strawberries and one graham cracker,” she says. Check out Choose My Plate for more information on food groups and recommended daily servings for kids.
If you find that your child is overdoing it on snacking, but won’t finish their broccoli at dinnertime, remember this and make an adjustment the next day. You might worry less if your child’s snack is broccoli with a slice of cheese or cucumbers dipped in yogurt.
Wise snacking choices
Looking for some easy ideas for fun snacks? Woodside offers these options, plus some advice about how easy it can be to offer nutrition at snack time. “A whole piece of fruit and some yogurt, cheese or a glass of milk is something your child can look forward to,” she says. “If you set the focus on nutrition, even little ones will recognize that snacks are nutritious and treats are something they can enjoy only once in a while, rather than every day.”
Check out these fun recipes for nutritious snacks. Or get creative! If you keep nutrition in mind, you can’t make a mistake.
If your kids like to get creative with how they enjoy their snack, here’s a recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Dippers that brings all of these ingredients together in a fun-to-eat way.
For a great way to incorporate a healthy variety of fruit with satisfying protein, assemble some Fruit and Cheese Kabobs. This delightful snack provides a perfect way to try new fruits, too.
While you’re prepping an evening meal, think ahead to tomorrow’s snack and pop some bananas in the freezer. As a fun activity, your kids can help finish the prep work on these Frozen Banana Pops.
Learn more about United Dairy Industry of Michigan at milkmeansmore.org.