adding snacks in the menu

The art of adding healthy snacks to your child’s menu

The key to maintaining the right nutrition balance is by planning healthy snacks in between main meals, which will inculcate good eating habits in children. This way, your kid will get to consume small and frequent meals instead of three large meals, which will keep obesity and binge-eating at bay. So, read on to know more about nutritious snacks and what you need to keep in mind while planning and preparing them.

Importance of healthy snacks

Snacks play a very important role in curbing your child’s small hunger pangs in between meals and enhancing their nutritional supply.

  • A thoughtful, healthy snack can help in dealing with cravings and keep up the energy levels of kids.
  • Younger children tend to get cranky when they are hungry and toddlers tend to overeat. Healthy snacking can be a solution to these issues.
  • Snacks also help picky eaters of all ages get the essential nutrition that they require, thus bridging the nutrition gap.
  • Several factors like sickness, fatigue and growth spurts can affect the food intake in children. At such times, snacks help to fill in the nutritional deficiencies that might occur.
  • Toddlers are often busy exploring the world around them, and they have very little patience to sit down for proper meals. Others may be picky eaters and refuse particular foods at mealtimes. However, during this stage, they need to eat a variety of healthy foods. So, when they can’t have it all in one sitting, snacks are the perfect solution.

Snacking tips for toddlers

  • When you are planning a snack for your child, it’s not just the quality that is important but quantity and timing too. Snacks shouldn’t curb your child’s appetite for the next main meal. If kids are fed all throughout the day, they will be unable to recognize their hunger signals, which is essential to maintain their ideal weight in years to come. So, give snacks and meals at the same time every day and leave it to them to decide what and how much they want to eat. It is crucial for a kid to know when to eat and when to stop eating.
  • Schedule their snacks so that they know that snacking is allowed only at those particular times. This will help build healthy eating habits.
  • Looking for snack options? Give a two-year-old snack options like whole-grain breakfast cereals which are low in sugar, bite-sized fruits that do not cause choking, crackers, cheese slices that are cut into fun, familiar shapes, yoghurt, mashed sweet potato, dry fruits like figs, fruit smoothies, milk, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, etc. Pair up a new food with another one of their favourites. Even if your toddler keeps rejecting a new food, keep offering it to him. You will succeed after several trials.
  • A toddler can eat what his or her family eats. Children also mimic what parents do, so it is important for the family to snack healthy. The best snacks are those that provide additional nutrition along with meals, and help to provide enough satiety that allows your children to complete their main meals too. Do not fret if they are not able to eat a lot during their main meal. Allow them to follow their hunger instincts.
  • Stock up on fresh, nutritious foods, instead of salty, fatty, sugar-laden, pre-packaged, or processed foods. If you take your child to a day care facility, ask them for healthy baby snack Small portions of food are enough to serve as a snack for a toddler, like 1/4 cup (57g) of cereal and 1/2 cup (118g) of milk or 1/2 a banana and 1/2 cup of milk.

Snacks to avoid

  • Do not give them sweets as a reward as this will go on to establish that desserts are better than other healthy foods. This will lead to unhealthy eating habits.
  • Do not give your child a snack just before a main meal, as this will lower their appetite and prevent them from trying new foods.
  • Juicing a fruit, even if it is a fresh fruit, leads to the same amount of calories as a soda. Juices also have lots of natural sugar in them and can lead to diarrhoea and obesity. If your kid is thirsty, give him milk or water.
  • Also, substitute juice with a whole fruit as it provides more vitamins and fibre.
  • Do not fuss over a clean, empty plate and do not allow kids to have alternate foods. Let them know the timings of snacks and meals and that they need to choose from the options available.
  • Do not let junk foods become a part of their daily diet. Occasional treats are fine though.

All in all, adding healthy snacks to your child’s daily diet can be easy if you keep the above tips in mind. Choose whole and natural foods over processed foods or those with added sugar, salt or fat, to ensure balanced nutrition. And remember to lead by example!