As Snack Attacks Rise, Seek Healthy Options
If you think your kids have more snack attacks than you did as a child, you're right.
Compared with two decades ago, children are taking more snack breaks. This higher number of snack breaks adds up to more calories a day.
Youths of all ages from 2 through the teen years snack more often. With 17 percent of children and adolescents obese, we can blame eating between meals for part of the trend.
Snacks play an important role in the well-being of a child. Younger children should eat three meals and two snacks a day. Healthy snacks, along with nutritious meals, help children grow strong and perform better at school. The task for parents and others who care for kids: offer healthy snacks that children like.
Those food choices should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, even though that might mean extra trips to the food store. The extra time and effort are worth it to help your child develop good eating habits for the long term. Also, make sure your own eating habits are nutritious. Parents who follow good eating habits themselves are more likely to have children who eat healthy.
You'll have more luck if you let your child make choices. For example, instead of asking your child what fruit she wants, give her two choices to pick from. Then she feels like she has some control over her diet.
Most snacks should be fresh fruit and vegetables, which are less costly than prepared snack foods.
Your children probably won't give up a daily soda-and-chips routine without protest. Still, the sooner you start, the easier it will be. It is much harder to change the habits of a teenager than it is to create healthy habits in a toddler. You can still be creative with the snacks you offer your children: try dried fruit, unsweetened apple sauce, frozen fruit, or fruit popsicles.
- Gomez, Wanda, RN, Ph.D.
- newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician