During the school year, kids spend the bulk of their time in the classroom and often come home only to go to practice, attend music lessons, or labor on homework.
All of these activities can build quite an appetite, and it’s important to make sure your kids are fueling their minds and bodies with the right types of snacks. Some snacks marketed to children may be loaded with sugar or unhealthy additives. As your child develops, it’s important to instill good eating habits in them, as well as a penchant for healthy snacks that will help them remain active as an adult.
Check out some tips for healthy snacks for today’s kids on-the-move.
Eating for Energy
Kids between the ages of 6 and 12 should eat between 1,600 and 2,200 calories every day. Some very active children may need more calories to provide the energy their bodies need, and it’s normal for kids to eat four or five times a day, including snacks.
In addition to a healthy breakfast, lunches should include foods from three or four different food groups so that children are getting the proper vitamins and nutrients for growth, development, and energy to provide focus and prevent fatigue throughout the day.
Nutritious snacks can also promote healthy development and provide a boost of energy for your kids. Although it may be quick and easy to choose grab-and-go items like chips and soda, keep in mind that snacks should be low in fat and provide nutritional value.
Snacks on the Go
When you’re on the go, try buying pre-sliced fruits and vegetables. They can be paired with healthy dips or yogurt as sources of protein or calcium. Sandwiches on whole wheat bread are also portable and quick to make. Cheese and crackers can serve as a quick energy boost that contains calcium and protein. A glass of milk or water can also serve as a snack to hold your child over until dinner.
Snacks for Athletes
If your child plays sports after school, he or she will need extra fuel for practice or the big game. If children have a meal prior to their activity, it should be eaten two to four hours before. A small sandwich, fresh or dried fruit, or nuts are good snacks if your child has less than a few hours between activities.
Hydration is extra important for student athletes who will need to replace the water they lose through sweat. Make sure your child has a water bottle at every practice and game, and drinks plenty of fluids before, during, and after activities.
Building Healthy Habits
In order to build healthy snacking habits for your children:
- Try to maintain a consistent dinner time. This can help kids choose the appropriate times for snacking, so they feel full without overeating.
- Make it a rule that snacking isn’t allowed within an hour of meals.
- When possible, make sure your children eat — even snacks — at the kitchen or dining room table. Allowing your children to eat in front of the television may create poor habits and lead to mindless snacking.
- Use a small bowl or dish to help your child visualize reasonable portion sizes for snacks.
For more information from UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, please visit the Nutrition Department website.