There are times when frequent small meals are the recommendation, but when it comes to training your kids toward lifelong healthy eating habits, it’s usually better to stick with the standard of three main meals. Snacking may figure into it if it contributes to a sufficient, not excessive, daily calorie intake.
This is hard to do if you use food as a distraction. Setting your toddler down with some food will buy you enough time to accomplish some task that you probably needed to get done yesterday, but this is really not a habit you want to get them started on. It’s more of a desperate measure that you can avoid with better preparation.
The Role Of Snacks In Your Children’s Diet
What is a snack supposed to be, anyway? Snacks are often consumed as replenishment to tide one over until a proper mealtime. In many cases, they’re also an aspect of culture and are taken as part of a daily ritual. They only ever become a problem when they mess with lunch or dinner, or when they contribute to unhealthy extra weight.
Snacking may be discouraged among adults who are trying to lose weight, but it can be beneficial to anybody who needs more sources of energy beyond the three meals. Growing children who spend their days almost constantly moving around, as they should, will feel hunger accordingly. A healthy snack should sustain them until actual mealtime.
Studies have shown that snacks can play an important part in children’s diets. Those munchies can contribute a big portion of their daily energy as well as provide other essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and fat. Depending on the snacking choices of the family, nutrition specialists point out that a good percentage of calcium and vitamin C can also come from snacks.
Healthy Snacking Habits
If you don’t adopt smart snacking habits as early as possible, your kids may end up cultivating unhealthy snacking habits that may follow them into adulthood. As a matter of fact, poor snacking choices can already have very detrimental effects on their well-being even while they’re still young.
Indeed, vigilance is required. What can you do to ensure that your little ones learn to snack healthily?
1) Make Sure That You Cover More Than One Food Group
Snacks tend to be mostly carbohydrates. This is fine as long as you don’t choose to give empty carbs such as white pasta or rice. In refinement, they got their nutrients stripped off them. They also tend to be quickly digested, so your kids will feel hungry again shortly.
Healthy snacks for kids, whether they’re mostly carbs or not, have at least one other food group represented, such as fiber or good fat.
2) Serve Milk With a Snack
Instead of giving milk at a different time, do it during snack time. It’s very filling, so it would deter over-snacking. Also, when served with a snack, it means that it’s not immediately before a mealtime, so they wouldn’t ruin their lunch or dinner. Depending on whether your children get two or three servings of milk a day, you may have to serve one during mealtime or right before bedtime.
3) Make Snacking a Scheduled Part Of The Routine
Observe your kids and determine what time between meals they get hungry. Once you have an approximate idea of when this happens, schedule to give them snacks at that time even before they start fussing because of hunger.
4) Serve Snacks At The Table
Don’t let your kids fall into the habit of mindless snacking, like when they’re lounging on the couch, watching TV, or playing with their toys. Serve them a sufficient portion and let them consciously consume it at the dining table so they regard it as sustenance and not as some random treat.
5) Keep Their Snack Portions Small
Toddlers’ tummies are pretty small. They don’t require a lot to register satiety. If you condition their little stomachs to expect huge portions, however, they’ll get used to it. They’ll start to make a habit of overeating, and this would definitely be to their detriment.
Snacking has its benefits, but when abused, it will lead not only to poor eating habits, but to serious health consequences as well. Make sure that you get your kids started on correct snacking.