It’s gotten easier for you to plan and serve healthier meals with the availability of nutritional information, but the quality and quantity of snacks available has left this part of eating in a state where it’s hard to tell if your family’s snack habits are really supporting a healthy lifestyle. Use the tips below to give your family a snack makeover to maximize your commitment to healthy nutrition.
If you decide to include snacks in your family’s diet, consider serving snacks at a specific time of day to avoid constant eating throughout the day. Snack time should not be longer than 15 minutes.
Stick to a single portion when serving snacks even if your snack is a low-calorie food to create the positive habit of a small snack. While healthy snacks can supplement nutritional needs, obesity remains a bigger risk than malnutrition for most individuals.
Do not overly restrict the foods you permit your child to snack on because you cannot enforce these limits all the time or forever. Many parents prevent children from eating any snacks that resemble cookies or puddings or chips only to discover that the moment they’re old enough to interact with other children these foods come into play. It is better to teach your children to eat in moderation.
If you’re worried about your child’s nutrition do not add foods to his or her diet to address this perceived need before considering the addition of a multivitamin recommended by your pediatrician. Bad eating habits, especially those that encourage overeating, can cause a lifetime of difficulty for children.
If your child complains about hunger even when you’ve instituted snacks, try adjusting the time of day you serve a snack rather than its quantity. Also consider whether your child tends to identify hunger when he or she is bored or tired, much as adults do. When you serve meals do not prevent non-obese children from taking seconds if they’re hungry.
Discuss the nutritional value of foods you serve your children for snack in an age-appropriate way during snack time. Familiarize children with different nutritional attributes of foods and how certain ingredients help them stay healthy. If your child is not interested then use snack time to discuss what your child wants to talk about.
Confine your nutrition advice to snack time rather than other times during the day. Because snacks are frequently a single food or a couple of foods it’s easier than using a meal to discuss the attributes of foods. Do not lecture your child about food during meals or spend significant amounts of time talking about nutrition with your children at other times of day. Too much focus on food and food content takes away from other things children could be doing and learning and is likely more a reflection of your stage of life than theirs.
Snacking can be a helpful part of supporting your child’s nutrition when it’s approached in a healthy way. Use the tips above to support nutrition and a continuing healthy lifestyle for your children.