The Science of Snacking

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When it comes to kids, I am a big fan of snacks (I’m actually a big fan of snacks for adults too, but that’s another post for another day…).  Snacks are great for keeping your kids satisfied between meals, adding extra nutrients into their diet, and providing fuel for their next activity.  With school in full swing, I’m betting many of you parents have kids in after school sports or activities, making that after school snack even more important to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner.  While snacks can be great for nourishing your sprout, they can just as easily add extra sodium and fat that your little one doesn’t need so let’s discuss how to snack wisely.

First things first, timing.  Timing is everything when it comes to snacks.  Too close after a meal and your kiddos might not be hungry for a snack, but too close before a meal and they won’t want to eat your yummy dinner.  Try spacing things out with about 2 hours in between eating, or leave AT LEAST one hour between snacks and meals.

Snacks should be structured and scheduled and, similar to meals, can even include the whole family. Snacking does not equal grazing throughout the day.  Just as snacks should be scheduled, they should be structured.  Try to keep your kids in a single location when they snack.  If they are roaming it’s harder to keep an eye on what and how much they are snacking on… not to mention you may find crumbs and sticky fingerprints in unwanted places.  Also, avoid snacking in front of the television.  Studies indicate that eating while watching TV leads to less mindful eating, definitely something we want to avoid in our kids.

So now we know when they should snack and where they snack, but what should your kids snack on?  Obviously something healthy but what does that mean? There are tons of great snack ideas out there but here are a few of my favorites right now:

Fruit.  Any kind of fruit. Served whole, cut up and on a skewer (kabob style), mixed in with yogurt for a yummy parfait, or served alongside yogurt mixed with cream cheese for a fruit dip.  

Vegetables. Serve raw or steamed.  Next to hummus, peanut butter or low fat ranch for dipping.  You can also cut them into fun shapes to make them more enticing!

Popcorn.  We love popcorn lately.  Particularly the plain, air popped kind (really though, G eats this by the handfuls).  You could also buy the bags of popcorn but stay away from the super sugary varieties.  Save those for special movie nights or trips to the fair, not everyday snack time.  

Cheese.  Yet another love.  String cheese anyone? Or sliced.  Or creamed and spread on a whole wheat bagel.  Always yummy and always good for snacking.

Yogurt.  Check out this post for all the reasons I L-O-V-E yogurt (not for me actually, but for others).  Also, can I sneak low fat pudding into this section? Not actually that healthy and not actually in the yogurt group, but still a reasonable option if you… ahem, your sprout needs something sweet and chocolatey 🙂

Whole grain crackers.  This is not a sponsored post but these are the  varieties I feel ok about feeding my family: Triscuit, Wheat Thins, Whole Grain goldfish (even the sweet variety have less than 10 grams sugar per serving). All yummy, all healthy(er) than other brands..  I also like graham crackers because, even though they may not be as healthy, they do have some whole grains and can satisfy a sweet tooth (particularly mine when spread with low-fat cream cheese and strawberry preserves).

Nuts.  Definitely for your older kiddos, nuts are a great way to increase protein and they travel well too.  All varieties are nutritious but walnuts pack the biggest punch as far as healthy polyunsaturated fats go.  Nut butters can also be included here, spread on a piece of whole wheat bread for a great pre or post-game snack.

These are just a few ideas for you to start with but get creative.  Combine foods from different food groups just like you would at a meal (in fact, you can think of a snack as a mini meal).  Snacks are a great time to involve your kiddos and get creative.  Up your after school snack game this week and let me know what awesome ideas you come up with!  

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