by US Army Africa
Quite often, adults have incorrect views about food that they pass on to their children. One of those views is that snacking between meals is bad for you. Often we do that because we ourselves are overweight and we feel guilty about having what we see as ‘extra’ food, so we don’t want our children to do that either. Add to that all the stories in the news lately of childhood obesity being on the increase and you intensify the worry.
But those worries about children snacking are unnecessary. Children are still growing and that takes energy which they have to get in the form of food. Also, children tend to be more active than adults. That means they need to take in more calories than you might think and more calories than they can easily eat at the three standard meal times. Depriving children of snacks when they are hungry will just make them resentful and give them a bad attitude about food. They will also then be tempted to eat too much at meal times which just confuses their natural hunger signals, storing up trouble for later life.
It’s all about balance. Children tend to feel hungry every three or four hours or so and that is when they should be able to eat. If they are too hungry children are more likely to choose sugary, high calorie snacks, rather than healthy alternatives. That is why it is important to encourage children to eat regular meals and to model that behaviour yourself as a parent.
If you are ensuring that your children eat healthy, balanced meals with all the nutrition they need, it’s a little less important what they snack on. However, it is best to get children into good eating habits so they don’t crave sugary snacks. One or two cookies a couple of times per week are not going to ruin a child’s healthy diet, so relax. If you can, make the cookies yourself from wholegrain flour and include some fruit. That makes them a much healthier snack, and an appropriate part of a child’s balanced diet. Armed with the proper information which you will get from this article you can see how to provide children with a range of healthy and tasty between meal snacks.
Sports snacks: If your child does a lot of sports, they will lose sugar and salt through their perspiration. Most of us know that this needs to be replaced with fluid but fewer people realize that a food snack is also needed in order to get the body back in balance after a period of sporting activity.
The ideal sports snack is carbohydrates based. Bagels, cereals, low fat crackers and fruit juices are good for this so long as you limit the amount of refined sugars which they contain. Carbohydrates have the added benefit that they will enhance muscle development which a growing child needs. Fruit is also a very good childhood snack option.
Plan ahead: We all know what it’s like when we get hungry. We reach for the first snack we can find, and it is the same with children. That means you have to plan ahead for them and make sure that your children always have healthy snack options to hand. Dry cereals and dried fruit are easily packed snacks. These can all be taken with you wherever you go.
If your child is going to be at home for snack time, then your task is easier. Pita bread wedges which can be dipped into hummus are a tasty and healthy snack that children will love. They will also like raw vegetable sticks which can be dipped into hummus or some other low fat dip.
To satisfy a sweet tooth, try giving your children low fat yogurt with fruit. If the fruit is cut up into bite sized pieces that a child can pick up in their fingers, they will like that even more. Fruit can also be blended into smoothies and offered to children as a healthier option to soda drinks.
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