Written by: Cally Worden
Honestly, the number of times each day I have to fight off demands for snacks from my kids! You’d think they were malnourished (they’re far from it). Even on three square, balanced, healthy and hearty meals a day our growing kids always seem to be hungry. Now, provided it’s not knocking their appetites at mealtimes, I’m all for offering a snack when they need it – the rate they are growing I can understand the requirement for regular fuel. But how to keep it healthy?
Aim for Slow Energy Release Snacks
A bar of chocolate or handful of sweets may satisfy the immediate craving for food your kids are experiencing, but we all know it’s not the way to go. The sugar rush they provide will inevitably lead to an energy slump and can contribute to mood swings too. Nope, the trick is to aim for snacks that will make them feel full without over-filling them and drip-feed their energy content over a longer period of time.
Granola, seed and nut bars are a great idea, as is a handful of dried nuts. Even the humble banana has its place – look at all those tennis players chomping them down during matches at Wimbledon. And there is a lot to be said for a slice of wholemeal toast and peanut butter or jam. Just be careful to choose snacks that are not too high in fat and sugar. And be wary of serving fruit juice on its own, or in too great a volume – it is largely sugar and can have the same effect as sweets and chocolate.
Keep your Stocks Healthy
Even the best of intentions can fall by the wayside if the snacks that you have to hand are not of the healthy kind. When kids ask for snacks they generally mean, like, NOW. So having stuff to hand is crucial. Make sure your cupboards are stocked with the kinds of healthy foods you want your kids to eat, they will be more likely to munch on them simply because they are there and it’s easy. If you have the time, you can keep a store of fresh veg sticks ready-chopped in the fridge – if it’s effortless, kids will generally favour it over something that requires them to expend energy – especially when they are teenagers.
If your kids are out and about a lot, make sure they take a healthy snack with them – this will help prevent them from being tempted to fill up on sweet stuff, chips or burgers. Variety is key – you have to keep it interesting. Try rice cakes, pretzels, raisins, granola mix, low fat and low sugar yoghurts. If they have a range of items to choose from, it will be easier to keep their attention from wandering to the unhealthy alternatives.
When your kids are younger it is easier – they can only eat the foods that you provide for them. Setting patterns of healthy snacking in place when they are small should make it easier to keep them on track as their independence increases and they have money with which to make their own choices.
Cravings for certain foods usually derive from a pattern of exposure, so if you can avoid getting into this with your kids in the first place then all the better. However, even the best laid plans can be scuppered, especially where kids are concerned. So make a point of acknowledging your kids’ desire for a little something sweet and for that chocolate fix, but own it too – offer a mug of hot chocolate instead of a bar, serve up sorbet in place of ice cream. Similarly, if salty snacks are in favour, offer healthy versions, such as tortillas with salsa instead of cream for a dip, or twiglets and pretzels in place of more fatty crisps.
Keep an Eye on the Serving Recommendations
Manufacturers can pack an inordinate amount of sugar and fat into the smallest cookie or snack bar, the size makes it tempting to munch your way through more than the ‘average’ portion specified on the packet. Whatever you are serving up (and this applies to healthy snacks too) go easy on the portion size.