7 healthy snacks for your child
Growing children get hungry between meals and it can sometimes be difficult to avoid refined flour, added sugar and artificial ingredients. Snack time is the best time to sneak some extra nutrients into your child’s diet. Instead of highly processed snacks, here are some whole foods that will provide energy and nutrition when your child’s tummy begins to rumble.
Fresh fruit is an ideal snack because it is colourful, enjoyable and nutritious, providing a multitude of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are vital to healthy growth and development. There is a multitude of ways that fruit can be served to make it interesting and exciting every single time. Do be sure to cut the fruit into smaller pieces, particularly for kids between 0 – 5 years old as they are more likely to choke on food because of their narrower airways.
- Apple slices combined with a peanut butter dip are a delicious fibre-filled option
- Fresh fruit is easy on the go. Cut it up into smaller pieces and store it in a container for convenience
- Try peanut butter and a banana quesadilla for a healthy snack
- A fruit smoothie is a great way to pack a lot of nutrients in but try to add vegetables as well because fruits are high in natural sugars
- For the summer months, a frozen fruit popsicle made at home offers less sugar and preservatives than the store-bought kind
Dried fruit such as sultanas, raisins and apricots are recommended in smaller amounts. It’s important to know that the nutrition value of dried fruit does change, usually with an increase in sugar. Dried fruits also pose a choking hazard as kids may find them hard to chew and swallow.
Dried fruit is obviously convenient to carry around in a handbag and can be stored in sealed bags for far longer than fresh fruit.
- Raisins are packed with fibre, potassium and various health-promoting plant compounds
- Prunes are natural laxatives and are rich in fibre, potassium, Vitamin A and K
- Dates are rich in antioxidants and have a low glycaemic index which means that they won’t cause major spikes in blood sugar
Yoghurt is a perfect snack that is full of protein and calcium which is especially important for your child’s developing bones. There are some yoghurts that contain probiotics which are beneficial to the digestive system. But remember to opt for plain, full-fat yoghurt and sweeten it with fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey rather than the kid’s yoghurts which are much higher in sugar. Do also remember to avoid giving honey to infants under 12 months as they are at risk of botulism.
Many people view popcorn as junk food as it is commonly slathered in butter and other unhealthy toppings, when in fact it is a really nutritious whole grain. Try to air-pop your own and drizzle it with a little butter and salt or grated parmesan cheese on top. Do watch out for little ones eating popcorn though as it can be a choking hazard.
Nuts contain healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants. In the past doctors recommended withholding nuts from children because of the risk of an allergic reaction but more recent evidence indicates that introducing them at a lower age reduces this risk. They can also pose a potential choking hazard so do ensure that your little one is able to manage the texture before you give them nuts as a snack.
Eggs are a highly nutritious snack for kids that provide high-quality protein along with a multitude of vitamins and minerals. They also contain two carotenoids that are beneficial for eye health as well as choline which is a vitamin necessary for proper brain development. Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick, high-protein snack.
Olives are great because they are rich in healthy fats and are packed with powerful antioxidants that help to protect your body from damaging molecules known as free radicals. Olives make for easy snacking though it would be a good idea to buy the pitted variety to make serving easier. Each olive variety does have its own unique flavour so start out with the mild-flavoured black olives first if your little one hasn’t had them before.
Whatever your little one’s tastes and preferences, there are a number of healthier options for you to choose from.
A healthy diet is imperative in your child’s development and as their parent, you are responsible for what they eat. Consider some of these tips when planning meals:
- Use less fat, salt, and sugar
- Cook with fewer solid fats. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or margarine. Bake or roast instead of frying. You can get a crunchy texture with oven-frying recipes or using an air-fryer which uses little or no oil.
- Choose and prepare foods with less salt. Keep the salt off the table. Have fruits and vegetables on hand for snacks instead of salty snacks like chips.
- Limit the amount of sugar your child eats. Choose cereals with low sugar or with dried fruits as the source of sugar
- Make half of what is on your child's plate fruits and vegetables
- Avoid oversized portions.
Physical activity is just as important in adults as it is in kids. Like adults, children should be physically active most, if not all, days of the week. Experts suggest at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily for most children. Activities can include fast walking, riding a bicycle, skipping, playing basketball, soccer, or hopscotch as great ways for children to be active. Parents play a big role in helping kids to get up and get moving so you will need to set an example yourself by performing the regular physical activity as well as encouraging them and even joining them while they play.
Research has shown that sharing a family meal is not only good for the spirit but also the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many desirable behaviours in kids: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also show that for young children, dinner conversation is a fantastic vocabulary-booster, more so than reading. Finally, regular family meals can also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents. What else can families do that takes only about an hour a day has such a massive impact?