This is one of my favourite topics to discuss with parents and children as it’s a real bag of snakes and one which is oh, so judged upon as you turn up to school to collect them!
Snacking now appears a necessary part of their everyday life as many children seem to burn through food very fast and need topping up, especially when they start school so early and have the pressures of achieving hour upon hour from such a young age. Snacks can also be a good way to get a few extra fresh fruits and vegetables into your child if they’re a little reluctant at meal times.
However, the reason I say it’s a bag of snakes is that there’s a tendency for some parents to give kids snacks more often than they need – on the bus, in the car, watching TV, they’re constantly eating. Snacks are sometimes used as a pacifier, which of course, we have all done on occasions, but for many families now, we see that children are struggling with too much weight and have problems with their teeth since they’re constantly being bombarded with sugar and other teeth-hating foods.
It’s hard to stand out from the crowd of parents who always give snacks even when it’s excessive, but have the confidence to do so as too much means their children can take in a lot of calories, usually from fat and sugar.
Like all things, snacks are fine in moderation, but damaging to their health in large amounts. Quality and frequency-wise, I’d suggest just having a small snack between their lunch and tea, or if the morning as long and you can provide something nourishing to have at school etc. Then this too can help them remain in a strong place.
Healthy snacks include:
- in autumn and winter think about packing a thermos of soup into the car, which you could bosth have a little cup of before you set off home or to an activity.
- rice cakes, oatcakes, breadsticks
- fresh and dried fruits – ideally non-sulphur treated.
- small bags of unsalted nuts (not for under-fives because of risk of choking, and not if your child has a nut allergy)
- hummus or guacamole and raw vegetable sticks
- slices of pumpernickel-style bread with a nut butter
- rye crackers with slithers of cheese
- homemade flapjack, oat biscuits or cereal bars
- fruit and yoghurt
- wholemeal muffin or bagel with sliced banana and a little honey
- plain homemade popcorn or vegetable crisps
- hard-boiled eggs halved or slices of good quality cold meat or chicken with some raw vegetables , packed in a handy container.
Complete Family Nutrition, by Jane Clarke, published by DK, £16.99, dk.com