Young family making a healthy snack.

By Helenbeth Reynolds, RD, LD

Careful food choices not only help ensure the physical nourishment of a child’s growing body, but they also can nourish his or her social, emotional and psychological development, according to Registered Dietitian Roberta Larson Duyff.

Most children and teens need to eat every three-to-four hours throughout the day to help fuel their growing and active bodies and meet their nutritional needs.

  • Younger children need to eat three meals and at least two snacks a day.
  • Older children need to eat three meals and at least one snack a day (they may need two snacks if they’re going through a growth spurt or if they are physically active).

Healthful snacking for children includes a variety of foods with different textures, tastes and colors. Children learn their food habits by watching others—not just parents, but also friends, teachers and the media.

When considering the food options you provide for snacks:

  • Ask your children what food groups they’d like to have on hand and purchase them.
  • Involve your children in planning, buying and preparing snacks.
    • Make sure your children know where foods are kept.
  • Keep fresh fruit on the counter so your children will see them
    • Be sure to wash or cut up veggies with your children ahead of time, so they are ready to eat. 

Eating many different foods provides energy and a variety of nutrients that growing and active children need.

Benefits of Different Food Groups

  • Milk, Greek yogurt and frozen yogurt, cottage cheese, pudding, soy milk and tofu and other cheese, like string cheese, provide calcium and Vitamin D and protein for growing, bones, teeth and muscles.
    • Snacking Ideas: Add toppings to yogurt, such as homemade granola, chopped almonds or walnuts or dried fruit.
  • Meat, poultry, turkey, fish, canned tuna, eggs, beans, nuts, peanut butter and seeds supply protein, iron and B vitamins to support growth body cells and healthy blood.
  • Breads, whole grain cereal, pasta, brown rice, as well as other grain products, provide complex carbohydrates, B Vitamins, iron and other minerals, and fiber.
    • Snacking Ideas: Try a baked potato or sweet potato (the edible skin of the potato is where the fiber is) or whole wheat bagels or whole wheat English muffins, in addition to graham crackers, animal crackers, pretzels, whole grain granola bars, air popped popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and fig bars as snacks.
  • Vegetables are great sources of beta carotene and Vitamin C, complex carbohydrates and fiber.
    • Snacking Ideas: Offer raw finger food veggies, such as carrots, colorful orange and yellow sweet peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and broccoli florets.
    • Since children like to dip, have your children dip veggies in salsa, bean dip, yogurt or hummus. 
    • Try making a vegetable kabob with your child. 
    • Mix peas into macaroni and cheese, add carrot shreds to spaghetti sauce, or lasagna, as well as add vegetables to ready to eat soups.
    • Also, try steaming or microwaving veggies in small amounts of water or stir fry vegetables.
    • Try growing vegetables with your children; they may be more apt to eat them.
  • Fruit supplies beta carotene and Vitamin C, potassium and other minerals that keep children’s skin, eyes and gums healthy. Fruit also supplies carbohydrate and fiber (the edible skin of many fruits is where the fiber is, like apples).
    • Snacking Ideas: Try frozen strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries in large bags. Next, use small handfuls for yogurt toppings or as smoothie ingredients.
    • Offer fresh fruits, such as melons, apples, pears, grapes, natural applesauce made without added sugar or juices.
    • Try making a fruit kabob with your child!

Get More Healthy Snack Tips from Livea

We hope these tips help you plan simple, healthy snacks for your family this summer. If you need any other tips or guidance, please reach out to your Livea team at 1-855-465-4832!


References:

Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 5th Ed, 2017, American Dietetic Association; Roberta Larson Duyff.

Eatright.org; Kids and Snacking, March( 4); 2019

 Smart Snacking, Brochure; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Eatright.org; 2017