By Sarah Lyons
A healthy and well-balanced diet is important for kids to maintain healthy growth and development. Snack time is a great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into a child’s daily diet. Children have smaller-sized stomachs than adults and therefore are less likely to eat enough at meals to keep them full and energized until the next mealtime which makes snack time a great way for parents to get in those extra nutrients. They also offer a variety of benefits.
Snacking helps kids develop healthy habits
Including three meals and two healthy snacks into your child’s daily diet helps kids learn healthy eating habits that will stick with them for a lifetime. Providing a well-balanced and healthy diet helps kids learn appropriate portion control, to eat (and enjoy) a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables and to develop a healthy relationship with food. Kids who learn these valuable habits early are less likely to form unhealthy eating habits such as eating out of boredom or based on emotional factors. They also learn to eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full, a skill many adults struggle with.
Snacking gives kids the boost they need
Without snacking, kids are less likely to meet the suggested nutritional intake to maintain a healthy diet because their stomachs are smaller and become full with a smaller meal. Adding two small snacks a day that provides fruit, veggies, low-fat dairy or whole grain helps kids fill in the nutritional gaps they may have been missing from breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, snacks provide a boost of energy to get kids through the rest of the day.
Snacking benefits a child’s overall health
The development of healthy eating habits at a young age decreases the likelihood of children developing diseases like cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Kids who eat more fruits and vegetables and less “junk food” that contain high quantities of sugar are also more likely to have better dental hygiene. Kids who maintain a healthy diet, including smart snack choices, are less likely to binge on foods high in calories and carbohydrates and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives.
Snacking helps power brain development
Kids who eat healthy snacks are, generally, more prepared to listen and learn at school because their bellies are full. They have more energy and are more attentive in class. Hungry kids become irritable, tired, and less alert. A healthy snack can do a lot to help kids grow and develop properly.
Now that we understand the great benefits of healthy snacking, how can we get our kids to eat the fruits and vegetables their bodies need? Preparing snacks that are fun encourages kids to try new foods and may even help them to forget they are eating healthy food at all. Here are some great snacks that kids will have fun eating.
Healthy and visually appealing snacks for kids
- Frozen banana “ice cream” – For a tasty sweet treat that is also healthy, simply slice a banana and freeze overnight. The next day put the bananas in a blender or food processor and you will have a creamy, healthy snack that tastes like ice cream.
- Apple slices – Slices of apple can be more appetizing for kids and are fun to eat. Add a side of peanut butter for dipping to make them even more appealing.
- Fruit Kabobs – Fun fruit kabobs are visually appealing and fun to eat. Create “caterpillars” out of grapes for a snack that is cute and healthy. Another way to make fruit appealing is to use cookie cutters to cut interesting shapes.
- Ants on a log – This cute snack is great for an afternoon snack or a fun surprise in the lunchbox. Simply fill celery with peanut butter and top with raisins to make “ants on a log”.
- Dinosaur broccoli trees – To a kid, broccoli resembles a tree. Why not make it fun and bring the dinosaur toys to the table to “share the trees”. Add some fun dip like ranch, blue cheese, or cottage cheese to the side to make it more appealing.
- Zucchini spaghetti – Kids love spaghetti. This healthier alternative is just as tasty as traditional spaghetti noodles.