Serve Healthy Grazing Snacks to Your Kids
Remember that grazing is good for you only if you graze on healthy food. When your children are choosing snacks, steer them toward grow foods. Send grow-food snacks along with your child to school and day care. Snacks that are good for grazing leave kids feeling satisfied but not too full. Here are some guidelines for healthy grazing snacks:
Pack Protein in Every Snack
Protein-rich foods satisfy hunger better than any other food, so they curb overeating. Eating protein as part of every meal and snack stabilizes blood sugar. Eating protein-rich foods is the key to making healthy grazing snacks that satisfy your kids.
Figure in Fiber
Fiber is filling without being fattening. Fiber-rich foods fill the tummy and slow down the absorption of carbs, so blood sugar and insulin levels stay steady.
Waterlog the Snacks
Foods with a high water content, such as fruits and soup, give more volume without a lot of calories.
Always Partner Carbs with Protein, Fiber and Perhaps some Healthy Fat
Never eat a carb-only snack. Carb-only foods (also known as empty carbs) are not filling or satisfying. They are digested quickly, so that blood sugar levels rise and fall rapidly, triggering hunger and another urgent snack attack. In the order of foods that satisfy hungry tummies, protein comes first, fats second, fiber-rich carbs third and empty carbs a distant fourth. Empty carbs also make your brain sleepy.
Offer Frequent Healthy Grazing Snacks
The younger the child, the more frequent the snacks. Toddlers may need to nibble on healthy grazing snacks every two hours; preschoolers and school-age children may enjoy three snacks a day, at midmorning, midafternoon and before bed.
Structure the Snacks
It is unusual for a child to overeat nutritious foods. If a child’s only choices are grow foods because you refuse to buy the other stuff, you probably don’t have to worry about when and how often kids eat. Prepare a nibble tray of healthy grazing snacks and leave it on the kitchen table. Most kids can be trusted to snack appropriately throughout the day, but some children cannot handle free access to the pantry and refrigerator. Or they may get so involved in play that they forget to eat. You may find that scheduling regular snacks works better for your family. That late-afternoon snack may be essential to keeping the peace while dinner is being prepared.
Avoid Mindless Snacking
Discourage children from munching in front of the television or while playing video games. Kids tend to overeat when their mind isn’t on what they are eating. Instead of handing the whole box of crackers to your child, pour a serving into a bowl and then put the box away.
KISMIF – Keep it Small, Make it Filling
A healthy-size snack is about the size of the eater’s fist. If you’re eating nutrient-dense foods such as nuts, the amount that fits in the palm of your hand should be enough to satisfy. Healthy grazing snacks for school-age children should contain between 100 and 200 calories. Choose snacks that are quick and easy to prepare. Let your children pick out some favorites from the Super Snack List when you’re preparing your grocery list.
Our top pick for a nutritious snack food is nuts. Besides being nutrient dense – full of healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals – nuts are a great fill-up food. A handful of raw nuts (around 150 calories) is a just-right snack.
Super Snack List
Here’s a list of good healthy grazing snacks. These are super snacks, ones that partner carbs with protein, fiber and/or healthy fats. Your children will find lots to like on this list.
- carrot sticks dipped in hummus
- apple slices dipped in peanut butter
- whole-grain cereal with yogurt
- edamame (fresh, cooked soybeans)
- string cheese and a piece of fruit
- cottage cheese and fruit
- a handful of raw nuts or trail mix
- pita bread spread with hummus
- rice cake with peanut butter and banana
- Parmesan cheese melted on a slice of whole-grain bread
- blueberries in yogurt
- popcorn (homemade air popped)
- celery sticks with peanut butter
- cherry tomatoes with cheese cubes
- fruit-and-yogurt smoothie
- hard-boiled egg
- bean dip and veggie sticks
- any fruit
- whole-grain, preferably homemade muffins
- homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies
- cut-up vegetables with salsa and corn chips
Sears, William. The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood. New York City: Little, Brown and Company, 2006. 163-167.