Nan Jensen, RD, LD/N
Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and soon it will be back to school.
When the kids get home after a long day in the classroom, the first thing they want to do is eat. Sound familiar? Children are eating about 168 more calories every day as snacks than they did in 1977, according to a 2010 Health Affairs study. Additional calories from any food, including snacks, can add up to an unhealthy weight for kids if those extra calories aren’t burned off. For many kids, snacks are often desserts or sweetened beverages, such as soda, fruit drinks and sports drinks. These foods provide calories but not much in the way of other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. However, snacks can help fill those nutrition gaps, provide extra energy for after school activities or make up for a missed meal if you choose wisely. Here are some helpful tips.
- Think of snacks as mini meals, not meal wreckers. Snacks can serve as opportunities for good nutrition, and ensure that your child will still be hungry for the next meal.
- Most of the time, feed your child the same types of foods you would at other meals. Include low-fat dairy and other lean protein sources, eggs, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Snack foods should provide protein, carbohydrate, fiber, and some healthy fat. Foods rich in protein or fiber help kids stay fuller for longer, and add nutrients kids need to thrive.
While there is no hard and fast rule for the number of calories a snack should contain, aim for about 100 calories for smaller children to upwards of 300 calories for active teenagers.
For more information on snacks and snack ideas, check out the publication Healthy Snacks for Children