Healthy Snacks for Children

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rybkaYoung children require a large amount of energy in comparison to their body size but they cannot cope with large quantities of food at any one time. Some toddlers may survive quite happily on three meals a day but you will probably find that your child will also need snacks between meals to keep up her energy level. As babies become increasingly mobile and expend a lot of energy it is important that you have plenty of healthy snacks on hand rather than let her fill herself up on empty calories like sweet biscuits and potato crisps. Offer healthy snacks like cheese, dried or fresh fruit or sandwiches with nutritious fillings like peanut butter, Marmite or Promite.

Young children have to eat concentrated sources of energy and nutrients frequently. It's a good idea to keep a stock of foods that lend themselves to snacks but which are wholesome and will give a child a slow release of energy. This is preferable to a faster boost of energy followed by a more rapid drop in blood sugars as happens when sugary snacks are eaten.

Offer your child nutritious snacks like fruit or raw vegetables with a dip. It is regular snacking on sugary foods and drinks that does the most damage to children's teeth, so it is important to train young children to enjoy eating healthy snacks like the ones listed to the right.

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You can aim towards a pattern of three meals a day but it will probably take a few years for toddlers to get there. Toddlers only have small tummies and often can't eat enough at one meal to be sustained through to the next. Be prepared to offer your toddler healthy between-meal snacks during the day. So many of us will die from diet-related diseases that setting up a good diet in the vital first few years may well determine your child's health later in life.

Some ideas for healthy snacks:

  • Fresh fruit.
  • Mini-sandwiches.
  • Yoghurt or frontage frais.
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals.
  • Steamed or raw vegetable sticks.
  • Fingers of toast with Marmite or Promite.
  • Pitta bread fingers and hummus.
  • Rice cakes, sesame seed crackers, crispbread.
  • Muffins.
  • Crumpets or pikelets.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Cheese.
  • Cream cheese with mini-bread sticks.
  • A bowl of home-made soup or fresh soup from a carton.

Energy-rich snacks

Toddlers are usually very active and apart from mealtimes will need good healthy snacks to keep up their energy. Toddlers tend to need frequent small meals. Unrefined carbohydrate foods like wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereal or potatoes take longer to break down into glucose and will provide a more nutritious and sustained energy supply than sugar and carbohydrates from refined sources like white bread or chocolate biscuits. Fresh fruit also provides a good fast-working supply of energy.

Healthy junk food

There is no such thing as junk food only a junk diet! Hamburgers, chips, potato crisps and chocolate eaten in moderation provide energy, protein and even minerals like calcium. But it is now clear that a junk diet that is high in fat, sugar and salt leads to health problems like obesity, heart disease and cancer later on in life. Bad habits start very early on in life, so setting a good example by eating healthy foods will help protect your child's future.

Good foods for a quick spurt of energy:

  • Bowl of cornflakes.
  • Banana.
  • Raisins.
  • Yoghurt and honey.

Good food for sustained energy:

  • Peanut butter sandwich on wholegrain bread.
  • Baked beans on toast.
  • Jacket potato with cheese.
  • Bread with ham, tuna or cheese.
  • Fresh fruit milkshake.

Of course, foods that are fried are not bad for children as fat is used by them as energy to grow and isn't related to any increased heart problems. But vegetable oils are better than animal fats. However, fried foods must only be used as part of a healthy diet because, like anything else, too great an amount of fried food can be bad for children.

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Foods like burgers and pizzas tend to be very appealing and children may well resent not being allowed them, particularly if their friends get to eat them. However, a good solution is to prepare foods that look like the foods they want but are actually made from good healthy ingredients. Try Rabbit muffins, Oven-baked root vegetable chips and Delicious chicken burgers (with four different vegetables).

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