Childhood Snacking on the Rise

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.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina analyzed national data from more than 31,000 children and teenagers (2 – 18 years of age) and found that they are consuming more salty snacks, candy, and fruit juice than they did in 1977. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that researchers found that children are eating 113 calories more per day from snacks than they did 30 years ago. If not compensated for by decreasing calories from other sources or increasing physical activity, these extra snacking calories could add up to almost 12 pounds of weight gain per year. Children 2 – 6 years of age have increased their snacking by 182 calories per day, which could mean almost 19 pounds per year if not compensated for elsewhere.With the Centers for Disease Control reporting that childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, this study sheds some light on one possible cause of this growing epidemic. 

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.
To cut down on the amount consumed in between meals, try these tips:
  • 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.
Keep these tips in mind when making your grocery list and you’ll soon find the whole family enjoying healthy snacks. If these are big changes for your household, don’t worry! Remember – small changes can make a big difference.
Tags from the story

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *