The easiest way to understand the purpose of a snack is to realize that it was intended to be a bridge between meals. That means it should:
- Balance blood sugar lows
- Cut your hunger so you can “last” till the next full meal
- Conform to somewhere between 100-200 calories
- Include a mixture of food groups
- Provide nutrients
So a candy bar, or chips and dip, or ice cream is not a snack of choice – those are treats. And constantly putting food in your mouth is not what snacking is about. But continuous snacking is apparently what’s going on among kids and teens, according to a new data report. American children ages 6-12 are on average consuming 4.1 snacks daily, while teens ages 12-17 are eating 3.8 snacks a day.
Could this type of behavior be fueling obesity trends? It certainly seems to be contributing to the growing waistlines of our kids and teens.
According to the NPD Group report, when it comes to school snacks, parents are giving 6-12 year olds gum, fresh fruit, fruit cups and applesauce, potato chips, meal kits, and yogurt. Teens are snacking on gum, fresh fruit, potato chips, chocolate/candy bars, and granola bars. Really??
I like the fruit, yogurt…but we need to do better. The snacks we are giving our kids should include foods that complement each other, and proteins are crucial for satiation. There’s a dearth of proteins on the lists in the NPD report; there don’t appear to be any healthy fat offerings; and I did not see vegetables at all.
And the key may be to actually package two foods together in a small baggie, container or piece of foil, so the kids know to eat these items as a complete snack. Assuming your child is eating a well-balanced meal for lunch, here’s a list of ideas that will hopefully inspire parents, and put a smile on kids' faces as they reach for their school snacks:
- Greek yogurt and berries
- A whole grain waffle and peanut butter single pack
- Cut up vegetables and guacamole or yogurt dip
- Trail mix – roasted soy beans, dried fruit, and high fiber cereal
- Non-fat pudding and a fruit
- Guacamole, baked chips and tomato/cucumbers
- String cheese and cut up peppers
- A wedge of low-fat cheese and an apple
- A small homemade muffin made with chunks of fruit and almonds
- A hard-boiled egg and mini rice cakes
- Frozen grapes and a small, high-fiber nutrition bar
- Celery and nut butter
- A small whole-grain tortilla with chopped veggies and hummus
An afternoon snack should not be a burger or fried chicken from a drive through, nor should it be a daily dose of cookies and milk. Most of our kids are not active enough to justify these calories, and frankly they need more nutrient-dense foods. And if they are involved with after-school fitness activities or sports, you should not be giving them donuts, and ice cream and pizza and fast food – choices which thoroughly undermine their fitness effort. Water (and some servings of low-fat milk) should be the beverage of choice and you should be offering hydration first to identify and satisfy thirst, which is often confused with hunger.
Yes, snacking done the right way is key to getting kids to fill up on healthy foods, keeping blood sugar levels and energy levels stable, and satsfying your kids' taste buds. Snacking done the wrong way is what seems to be the norm right now. Those habits are growing unhealthy waistlines. Let’s change those habits.
Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch? Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103. Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.
Follow my blogs at: http://www.healthcentral.com/profiles/c/86903
Published On: September 12, 2013