What our kids love to eat Vs what they should eat
What we eat between meals is generally considered a Snack. Usually, snacks come in a variety of forms including packaged snack foods and other processed foods, as well as items made from fresh ingredients at home. Children are consuming snacks that are dangerously increasing their intake of sodium and saturated fat. Children eat snacks at school and at home. Especially toddlers and pre-schoolers are being affected by modern-day unhealthy foods such as pizza, burgers, hot dogs, potato chips, French fries, etc. Therefore, it is important to prepare a child’s dietary intake considering what snacks should we avoid and what are healthy snack options to be given to kids.
What are the problems with snacks for kids
The problem arises when the snacks we choose are unhealthy. One should always think of snacks as mini-meals. Snacking is problematic when it is random and unplanned. But at the same time, as a nutritionist, I don’t expect people to be perfect because we all have a different nutritional compass.
Eating something throughout the day interferes with kid’s appetite and also it can disrupt their natural instinct to experience hunger and fullness. But if it is corrected timely, healthy snacking can help kids get the energy and nutrients they need. Being an adult person, however, we should strive to consciously make healthier snack choices, if not for our sake, then for the sake of our children. As we want them to grow up to be strong, resilient and healthy adults.
Change begin with the Parents
As we know none of the kids buy a snack for themselves, but this is done by parents only. So, it becomes parents responsibility to encourage the selection of healthy snacks and imbibe healthy eating habits in their children. For doing this, sometimes you have to resist your children when they request you to buy some snacks for them because you know well it is not good for their health.
Obviously there are parents who routinely send healthy snacks with their kids to school. But we need to ensure that doing so is a commonplace in all households. It has to become the norm rather than the exception.
Unhealthy Snacks: Mostly unhealthy snacks are convenient and very satisfying but they are loaded with sugar and salt. Another common thing these items have is that they are processed and very difficult to digest. Below listed unhealthy food items has absolutely no fiber content or nutritional value.
- Fruit Juice drinks: Juices that we find on store shelves actually contain a minimal amount of actual fruit juice. Fruits provide us a good amount of vitamins and other nutrients, wherein fruit juice contains a ton of calories and sugar. Limit kids to about four fluid ounces a day of the juice, only if it is 100% fruit juice. Whole fruits like kiwi, oranges, strawberries contain any time more vitamins than these packaged juices.
- Fries or veggie chips: Although they have a veggie in their name, veggie chips aren’t nearly as healthy as you might think they are. The making of these chips undergoes several processes which include cutting, boiling and frying at an ultra-high temperature that turns them into chips. After these processing techniques, the veggies are robbed of the vitamins and nutrients that make them so good for us.
- Lunchables: They are no doubt a convenient snack because it can be easily packed into your child’s lunch bag. Despite the fact that the contents of your average Lunchables contain protein, a little bit of Vitamin C, calcium and iron, they are highly processed, non-nutrient dense and low quality. Also, they are overloaded with sodium, artificial flavours, and preservatives. In this excessively processed snack, there is a good amount of corn-starch, sugar and hydrogenated oil. For these reasons, they should not be given to your kids as a snack.
- Soda: Pretty obvious thing to say, soda is loaded with sugar and often caffeine and has no nutritional value. American Academy of Paediatrics says soft drinks pose a risk of dental caries because of their high sugar content and enamel erosion because of their acidity. The artificial sweetener named Aspartame linked to a great deal of controversy in diet soda should make you think twice about giving it to your children as a snack. You are advised to eliminate any substance from the diet which is unhealthy for your kid. I always recommend and ask people to teach your kids to choose healthier alternatives that are found just about everywhere nowadays.
- Yogurt: As we hear the name Yogurt, no doubt it is an amazing snack packed with probiotics for healthy gut of your little one but unfortunately, that’s seldom the case. Most brands are full of added sugar, flavoured yogurt or yogurt with candy toppings might as well be considered light ice cream. Never forget to check the nutrition label before buying any such thing.
- Bakery products like cakes, cookies, and pastries, etc. : Bakery products are high in calories. Pastries, cakes, and cookies are unhealthy if it is eaten in excess quantity. Their packaged forms are generally made with refined sugar, refined flour, and added fats, which may be high in trans fats. Therefore, avoid sending these snacks with your kids to school or anywhere else at all costs. These foods may be given on the rare occasion as a treat.
- Pizza burgers/ fast foods: McDonald’s Burger and pizzas are the most loved and preferred foods for kids. Any casual get together seems incomplete without this cheesy treat. Though pizza has vegetables in it, but merely the presence of some baked or grilled vegetables doesn’t justify the total nutritional value in pizzas. Because of the refined wheat flour (Maida) used to make a bun and pizza dough, cheese, mayonnaise, makes it unhealthy for kids. Most of the fast-food contain sodium and other chemicals which is bad for the health of your kids.
- Healthy Snacks: There is a list of some simple, healthy snacks that your children can enjoy. These are kid-friendly snacks that are both healthy and delicious, they are a combination of fiber, proteins, and fat that will fuel your busy child in a perfect way.
- Vegetables: Vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes are not just a part of the main meal now, by being creative with vegetables and offering them as snacks will ensure children get enough of their veggies. Carrots, capsicum, baby corn, pumpkin, onions, mushrooms, beetroot all these vegetables can be softened by steaming or can be grilled or baked. These snacks can be included in the lunchbox also in the form of vegetable kebabs, veg nuggets or mix veg rolls.
- Popcorn: Some people consider popcorn junk food, but it is a highly nutritious whole grain. It is unhealthy only if it is drowned in toppings. Drizzle it with little butter or ghee and sprinkle some cheese on top, makes it healthy snacks for kids.
- Nuts: They are high in healthy fats along with fiber and antioxidants. Good fat is needed for proper growth and brain development in children. Peanuts, cashews, almonds, dates, pistachios, walnuts, etc are the power packs of nutrients! Ike vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, protein and fiber which helps children grow well.
- Oatmeal: They are high in soluble fiber that is responsible for increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. It turns out to be the perfect breakfast recipe for kids if cooked in milk, providing calcium, protein, vitamin D in the morning time. It can be cooked with vegetables also, which adds colour to the recipe along with endless nutritional benefits.
- Fruit: Fruits like Raspberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, watermelon, and many others, simply slice, dice and toss in a small container. Fruits are the most convenient and healthy snack for kids. Make sure you stick your kid to fresh fruit to ensure your little one is getting the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow up big and strong. Fresh fruits contain fiber and as we all know fiber is needed for proper digestion and should be consumed regularly. Thus, fruit in its natural form is always the healthier option.
- Sandwich: For making a healthy sandwich, always choose a whole wheat bread. Peanut butter or almond butter can be applied as a good protein source. Sprouts can be tossed, banana slices or diced apple or any other fruit or serving of salad can be used as a sandwich combinations. Perhaps, this could be the best meal or snack for a hungry kid.
- Greek yogurt: A better alternative for yogurt is Greek yogurt as it has more protein than regular yogurt. Also, you can add raw honey or fresh fruit pieces to sweeten it.
- Almond butter and peanut butter: As we know protein is essential for growing children. Therefore, both these butters are rich in protein, good fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. These butters help kids to try even those foods they might otherwise avoid. Being a calorie-dense food, it can be added to your kid's diet every day. Peanut butter and almond butter makes a delicious spread on any fruit slices.
Patience is the key
The first year of a child's life is an important period to establish good eating habits. Provide healthy snack options to the kids that are both enjoyable and also provide good nutritional value to them. It takes time and patience to see what healthy choices work for your children but setting them up for success and healthy lifestyles is a lifetime reward.
Here is just a shortlist of healthy snack options for your children. Many more alternatives exist. It takes a little time to become accustomed to the routine of making these snacks, but make it a routine and your children will reap the benefits. Whether it’s after school, in the evening, or in the morning, prep time only takes minutes. Get the kids involved in helping you as well. Do remember that children learn their eating habits primarily from their parents, so you need to lead by example as hard as that can be on a busy weekday loaded with homework and hockey games, not to mention your own job and the never-ending errands. But I strongly encourage you to try implementing some of these ideas, even gradually or one-by-one. Try to manage to make these significant changes, your kids will thank you one day when they are all grown up.