Kids snacks – what to give and when

Sometimes it feels like you spend most of the day feeding the kids, right? No sooner have you cleared up the dishes from breakfast or lunch and they say they are hungry and want a snack!

How many snacks should I give my child?

It is recommended, for most children, that no more than two snacks per day are given – this might be a mid-morning snack, mid-afternoon snack or evening snack (if they have had an early tea), whatever works for your family’s eating schedule.

Avoiding grazing and/or meal refusal

If they are constantly grazing or eating snacks too close to mealtime, they won’t eat much at the next mealtime. As young children have small stomachs and often can’t fit in enough food at mealtimes to happily go without food until the next mealtime, providing a healthy snack is a good idea. However, try to schedule in these snack times and stick to it so it becomes routine and your child knows what to expect. Think carefully about portion sizes so they have had a worthwhile snack (not just titbits which they will keep wanting more of until the next mealtime) but isn’t too big that they are at risk of overeating or are still going to be full by the time the next meal comes around.

What portion size is right for my child?

Suitable portion sizes will vary depending on a child’s age, gender, height and level of activity. In babies and younger children suitable portion sizes can also vary day-to-day and week-to-week due to things like growth spurts, illnesses and teething. A good portion size guide for toddlers aged 1-4 years can be found at the Infant and Toddler Forum . To a certain extent, it may be a case of getting to know what portion size works for your child – what portion size do they need to keep them going until the next mealtime and is not too big that they aren’t then eating their meal.  

If you're buying packaged snacks for your kids, as a guide, try and stick to 100 calorie snacks which are lower in sugar. Check the nutrition information on food labels. Choose snacks with more greens and ambers on the label, and cut down on snacks that show any reds.

Healthy snack ideas

Snacks should not just be used to provide energy, they should be used as an extra opportunity to provide essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. Use them to get in an extra portion of fruit and veg or dairy, depending on what the rest of the day holds.

  • Wholegrain cracker and cream cheese, slices of apple

  • Fruit slices and cheese

  • Banana

  • Breadsticks and no added sugar and salt peanut butter

  • Wholemeal toast

  • Eggy bread

  • Corn cakes and peanut butter/cream cheese

  • Walnut or plain mini scone

  • Savoury mini muffin

  • Low sugar flapjack

  • For older children - Low sugar and salt popcorn (choking risk for younger children)

 

 

 

Ros Miller