Your kids are not necessarily junk food junkies if they seem to always be hungry for a snack. Snacks are a necessary part of healthy growth, and should be a good source of nutrients for your children.
There are different reasons why preschoolers and teens need to consume snacks. Young children have small stomach capacity, which prevents them from getting enough calories in just three meals per day. Pound for pound, their caloric needs are comparable to adults, according to Healthy Eating for Families. Healthy snacks help them refuel throughout the day.
Children who are in the 5- to 12-year-old range need snacks to help them grow and learn. Long stretches between meals can interfere with children’s ability to pay attention in school, avoid mistakes on tests, and behave themselves.
Caloric needs are at an all-time high in teenagers, particularly for boys. Growth spurts, intense sports workouts, and staying up later at night leave teens hungry.
However, snacking has gotten a bad reputation through the years, due in part to the highly marketed snacks that kids have come to ask for by brand name. It seems as though we don’t see nearly as many children snacking on an apple or a handful of almonds these days as we see feasting on sugary, processed and pre-packaged foods.
Here are some tips on snacking from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists:
- Have your child’s diet assessed by a pediatric dentist.
- Don’t stock your pantry with starchy, high-sugar snacks. Save those foods for special occasions.
- Limit the number of snack times, and choose healthy snacks.
- Don’t put children to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.
- If your child chews gum, make it sugarless.
“Parents who want their children’s teeth to develop properly and maintain healthy gum tissue must focus on providing a balanced diet, which includes nutrient-rich snacks,” says Dr. Nanna Ariaban, a pediatric dentist in Alpharetta.
Dr. Ariaban recommends fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, whole grains and proteins. Lots of ideas can be found online by searching terms such as “healthy snacks for children” or “healthy snacks for kids on the go.