U.S. children consume up to three snacks per day, which make up more than 27% of their total calories, a new study found. And it’s not fresh fruit and cottage cheese that they’re munching on, either. Desserts, salty snacks, and sweetened beverages top the charts.
Fortunately, snacking can be healthy; preventing us all from gorging at the next meal and keeping our energy steady throughout the day. This is particularly true for growing children, whose small stomachs often cannot accommodate a day’s worth of calories needed for proper development in just three meals. There are a lot of ways you can making snacking both healthy and fun:
- Fuel with fiber. Whole-grain crackers and pretzels are high in fiber, which provides lasting energy between meals for fewer calories. Add low-fat cheese to increase satiety.
- Match a healthy carb with protein. So many options! Peanut butter on celery or apple slices. Raw veggies dipped in hummus or bean dip. Fresh fruit stirred into fat-free yogurt, or blended together for a healthy smoothie. Create your own small portion of healthy trail mix by combining dried fruit and nuts.
- Expand the options. Offering different foods can combat snack boredom. Try bite-sized grilled cheese on whole-grain bread, boiled edamame (soy beans), or tropical fruit like pineapple, mango, or papaya.
- Use breakfast. Healthy breakfast options bring crunch and taste to snack-time. Try a small whole-grain English muffin with almond butter or whole-grain, low-sugar cereal with fat-free milk or yogurt.
- Have a no-snack rule in front of the TV or computer (good for everyone!).
- Portion out the snack onto a small plate. Two tips in one! People eat more when it’s straight from the container, and putting food on a small plate (versus a large one) makes it seem like a bigger serving, says Cornell University’s Dr. Brian Wansink.
- Play. Snacking often comes from boredom, so follow the First Lady’s campaign slogan and “Let’s Move!”
- Can the soda can. Pour your kids a glass of water to help their hydration and calorie intake. For something fizzy and sweet, add ¼ cup 100% fruit juice to a tall glass of seltzer instead of serving soda.