Children love to snack, given a chance they will even snack round the clock. For most kids, snacks are a bag of chips, cookies, or something that’s unhealthy and junk. Most parents dread snacking for the very same reason. Snacking does not necessarily mean its unhealthy. In-fact, snacking is as important as a meal, especially for kids.
Younger children have smaller tummies and that means lesser snacks in smaller intervals. Without snacks focusing on learning or on their daily activities becomes difficult. Whereas for older kids although they do not get cranky, they tend to overeat during their scheduled mealtimes. “Healthy Snacks” is the keyword here. Snacks at the right time and in right quantities can provide the required nutrition and avert hunger peaks.
The right time to snack is a few hours after a meal or a few hours before the next meal. It is ideal to have the snack a bit dense and rich in nutrition that is usually missing in the child’s meal.
Snacks for babies and toddlers
Toddlers are energy personified and that only means they get hungry frequently. With their tummies being tiny, they cannot consume more at one go. Toddlers need to eat anywhere between five to six times a day, to keep the energy levels up and provide the required nutrition.
A fixed schedule for everything plays an important role in a child’s upbringing. This also helps in establishing healthy eating habits in children right from the beginning. Children respond to schedules well and helps them learn better. Offering healthy snacks at the same time everyday creates a sense of control and sets certain ground rules that snacks will available only at those times. This predictability also helps the child learn what hunger is.
Here are a few common mistakes every parent can avoid, especially with toddlers
- Rewarding a toddler with junk (toffies, desserts, or sugar loaded cookies) for good behavior. This might create a pattern, and the child will expect a junky treat.
- Offer treats to pacify kids is a big NO. This can either start a pattern to eat junk food when they are upset, or the tantrums can get worse over time just to junk.
Snacks for Pre-schoolers
Preschoolers are the most active lot. With constant activity they need nutritious food to keep them going. Preschoolers need 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Kids of this age are bored too soon and are not sure what to do next. For a preschooler, the only way to get rid of boredom is to snack. Most often then not they may just need attention, a new game, or a change of place and the “boredom snack” is soon forgotten.
Again, scheduled snack time plays an important role in establishing control. Assign a designated place for snacks and ensure they do not snack along with screen time. Studies show mindless snacking leads to overeating.
Snacks for Schoolers and older kids
School going kids are much easier to handle. They are old enough to understand why it is important to eat healthy. It is also easy to establish healthy eating by being a role model. Give them a variety of options to choose from, that way they feel they are in control and responsible. School going kids are generally busier, with so much going on from studies to after school activities and games. They typically need 3 meals and 1 snack a day. This snack can be scheduled for the evening hours, to help them focus on their after-school activities and homework.
Monkey see. Monkey do.
A parent plays an important role in the child’s upbringing. Not just in upbringing but even in establishing healthy eating habits. Children learn by watching and imitating parents / adults around us, typically like “monkey see, monkey do”. For children to understand the importance of eating healthy, parents must make it a point to follow healthy eating along with children. Habits like cooking together and dining together teaches kids the effort taken to make a meal and eating together sets the ground for being a role model.
Snacking can be a challenge for anyone especially when older kids and adults have the freedom to choose what they want to eat. If healthy eating has been established in kids right from the beginning and encouraging them to make healthy choices, they are more likely to make healthy and nutritious choice over junk.