According to one study of 31,337 children and adolescents, snacking can contribute up to 600 calories per day, mostly from high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar foods. Three snacks per day are common and more than 27 percent of children’s daily caloric intake is coming from snacks. These snack habits are eroding mealtime where healthier food is generally served. My guess is that adults aren’t too far behind in these statistics.
Snacks can be a healthy part of food intake, but should be eaten only when hungry, not as habit or from boredom. Here are some healthy snack tips:
- Choose snacks for variety and select foods from different food groups.
- Snack only when you are hungry.
- Eat snack size portions.
- Plan ahead and bring snacks with you.
- Read labels for serving sizes and portion control.
- Drink water. At least 8 eight-ounce glasses are recommended each day, unless you have kidney problems.
- When you are snacking be sure you are only eating. Snacking while studying or watching TV usually means you will eat more than you intended!
- Plan snacks as a part of the day’s food plan.
- When shopping, let children help pick out fruits, vegetables and cheeses, they will be more interested in eating them.
- Set aside a “snack spot” in the refrigerator and cupboard; keep it stocked with nutritious ready-to-eat snacks. Teach kids to only eat when hungry.
- Offer snacks at regular times, such as midmorning and mid afternoon. Don’t let children nibble constantly during the day.
- Avoid high sugar, fatty (the ‘wrong’ kind of fats like potato chips which have been fried in who-know-what kinds of unhealthy fat) and salty snacks, such as candy and soda pop.
- Snacks are a good way to introduce new foods. Include a game or activity to learn about the new food; let the child help fix it.
- Never offer food as a reward for good behavior.
Here are a few healthy snacking ideas:
- Fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables provides a feeling of fullness and only a small amount of calories. They also provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients.
- Ants on a log — Spread peanut or almond butter on celery sticks and top with raisins.
- Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein and healthy fats, which helps keep you feeling fuller longer. Nuts and seeds are high in calories, however; so don’t eat them in large quantities. Buy and eat raw nuts and seeds.
- Pita and hummus — Cut whole-grain pita bread, non-gluten if desired) into triangles and bake in the oven until crispy. Serve with carrot and celery sticks and dip in hummus. At our non-profit DirectionFive-a culinary and nutrition program for kids-this recipes is a favorite of the kids we teach. Try it!
Yield: 2 cups
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans or 1-15 ounce can*
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Rinse and drain garbanzos and place them in a food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, tahini, garlic, cumin and cayenne. Turn on the processor and slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Place in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
Variation: Sometimes we add a handful of spinach and some fresh parsley to this. It’s delicious and adds more nutrients.