How to Develop Healthy Snacking Habits in Your kid
How do you start your kids on developing their own healthy eating habits, such as choosing healthier foods and snacking in moderation? Here’s a guide from our Nutritionist-Dietitian to help you out!
Most people love to snack during the day or munch on food and have drinks in between or in addition to main meals. For active children and teens, snacks are good supplements to meals since their stomachs are smaller; they must eat more often to get the calories (or ‘food energy’) needed and to make up for nutrients or food that are lacking.
Watching TV or playing with gadgets tends to increase snacking. People generally also eat or drink more when the snack pack or beverage cup is bigger. Overeating tends to happen when you nibble on food mindlessly during sedentary activities, like when you watch TV or spend time online.
There is no evidence that frequently eating is linked to being overweight in very young children, but to promote healthy snacking habits, parents should consider these tips:
● Keep a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich, ready-to-eat snacks on hand for whenever you need a light bite to take the edge off hunger.
● Portion the snacks. Put it on a plate or on a dish instead of eating directly from the package. That way, you know how much you have eaten.
● Make snack calories count. Choose foods to fill food-group gaps in your day: perhaps fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
● Go easy on energy-dense, nutrient-poor snacks with high levels of fat, especially solid fats, added sugars, and/or sodium. Examples include candy, juice or sugary drinks, regular soft drinks, and others. Limit your kids to eating these only occasionally, and keep portions small.
● Snack only when you are hungry, not because you are bored, frustrated or stressed. You can feed any emotional urge to munch by doing another activity instead of eating – for example, walk the dog, check your email, or call or text someone instead.
● Keep snack portions sensible. Choose a single-serve container or place only a small helping in a bowl. Skip mega- or super-sized drinks and snacks.
● Refer to the food labels. If a snack package says two servings and you eat the whole amount, you double the calories, solid fats, and sodium in a single serving.
● Snack well before mealtime. A light bite two or three hours ahead of a meal probably won’t interfere with your appetite and may divert a temptation to snack heavily right before dinner. To prevent hunger for a longer period, pick snacks with protein and fiber. Some examples would be peanut butter on celery or cheese and whole wheat crackers.
Getting your child to eat healthier snacks
When it comes to encouraging your kid to eat healthier, the key is to provide choices that are “visible”, convenient, effortless, and tasty. Snacks can be thought of as mini meals. Time snacks so your child is hungry at mealtimes and allow at least two hours between meals and snacks.
● Expose your child to a variety of foods from each food group. Make sure you have each type of food on-hand.
● Walk your child or teen through the kitchen so he knows where these foods are kept.
● Always keep your veggies fresh, cut, and washed, so they are ready to eat. To make it tastier, keep yoghurt dip or a vinaigrette dip on-hand to go with the veggies.
● Place nutrient-rich foods where the child can reach them, perhaps on lower shelves in your refrigerator, pantry, or cabinet. Put cookies and chips away in cabinets where they are more difficult to reach especially for impulse eaters.
● Use clear plastic containers so the child can see what’s inside. Keep fresh fruit on the counter where your child can see it.
● Buy more healthy food in single-serve containers for grab-and-go eating. Some examples include fruit cups, juice, milk, pudding, and even raisins.
Having a variety of healthy and colorful food on-hand for snacks will help provide the nutrients and calories your child needs to thrive. It always helps to teach your child to be mindful of what he eats for the next time he gets those midday hunger pangs.
Duyff, Roberta L. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “ Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, “ 5th edition, 2017, USA.
About The Expert
NIEVES C. SERRA, Nutritionist-Dietitian
Ms. Nieves Serra, a registered Dietitian, took up AB major in Nutrition and minor in Home Culture in St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) Manila in 1960. After her graduation in 1964, she took up the ten months Dietetic Internship program at FEU Hospital. She was the only one in her batch at SSC who took the Board Exam, passed it and practiced in the country. She took up M.S. Foods and Nutrition and MBA without thesis from Philippine Women’s University, Manila.
Her career has been devoted to hospital work in the Dietary department of private and government hospitals for a span of 46 years, and 41 years teaching nursing, HRM and nutrition students. She was also a cafeteria concessionaire for 6 years in various industrial companies, a lecturer/speaker in seminars and conventions and a member of various associations such as PASOO, and PHILSPEN.
In 1992, she was awarded the Outstanding Nutritionist-Dietitian of the year by Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC), and was a past president of Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines or NDAP (1988), NDAP Life member (2007 to 2011), and held various positions from 1966 to the present. She is married to her profession, a devout Catholic, and follows the Benedictine motto of her school, St. Scholastica’s College, “Ora et Labora, which means work and pray being a loyal Scholastican and a loyal NDAP member.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.
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