Article provided by Nemours Children's Health System and written by Mary-Catherine Perry, RD, LDN.
Snacks can be a part of a healthy diet. Think of snacks as a little bridge from meal to meal, especially if meals are consumed longer than four hours apart. Snacks may not always be necessary every day, or between every meal. Aim to limit no more than 2-3 snacks per day, and be sure that healthy snacking is only offered/consumed at appropriate times.
Pair Protein and Fiber
Pairing protein and fiber-rich foods can help fill your child up. The term “satiated” is used to define the feeling of fullness or no longer feeling hungry. To improve satiety, be sure to offer one protein item or one fiber item. Or consider offering a combination of the two.
Protein sources include:
- dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt
- nuts and seeds
Fiber sources include:
- whole grains such as whole grain crackers, granola or a slice of whole grain bread.
Examples of Protein and Fiber Combinations:
- 1 serving of whole wheat crackers + 2 ounces of cheese
- ¼ cup nuts + fruit
- ½ cup Greek yogurt + fruit or ¼ cup granola
- Raw vegetables + hummus
- 2 Tablespoons of nut butter + celery sticks
- String cheese + fruit
*Please see protein and fiber lists below for additional ideas.
- Do have a healthy snack when you are feeling hungry between meals.
- Do establish a schedule to limit constant snacking or “grazing” throughout the day.
- Do space meals and snacks 2-3 hours apart to avoid eating less at mealtimes.
- Do pack a healthy snack when you are on the go to avoid the need to stop for something less nutritious.
- Do aim to include at least 2-3 grams of fiber or more.
- Do wash, cut up, and place fruits or vegetables in a baggy or plastic container in the refrigerator for easy access.
- Do choose foods packed with nutrients so that snacks are not associated with treats.
- Do try to pair items rich in protein and fiber to help improve satiety (see lists below for ideas).
- Do think of snacks as mini-meals; limit to 1 serving size (you can often use the recommended serving size listed on the food label).
- Don’t snack if you are not hungry.
- Don’t snack on large portions such as: a bowl of cereal, sandwich, leftovers, cup of noodles.
- Don’t snack on “junk food” including cookies, chips, candy, cupcakes, ice cream, etc.
- Don’t snack because of an emotion (like when you are feeling sad, angry, lonely, bored, nervous, happy, upset, etc.).
- Don’t snack in front of the TV or while playing video/computer games.
- Don’t offer high sugar or high fat snacks that provide very little nutrients.
- Don’t offer snacks to distract or occupy kids.
- Don’t snack immediately after a meal.
- Don’t snack late at night (no later than 7 or 8pm is a good rule of thumb).
*Additional Healthy Snacking Options
- string cheese, or 1 serving of Baby Bell cheese, or 2 ounces of sliced cheese
- 1 hard boiled egg
- Greek yogurt (drinkable or regular; less than 15g sugar/serving)
- Kind bar (nut bar; less than 10g sugar)
- 1/4 cup nuts
- 2 Tablespoons nut butter
- 1 serving beef jerky (low sodium if possible)
- roasted soybeans
- 1/4-1/2 cup homemade trail mix with nuts/seeds, dried fruit, and/or whole grain cereal
- meat & cheese roll-ups (2 slices lean/ low-sodium deli meat + 1 slice cheese)
- frozen grapes
- Consider topping with sugar-free Jell-o powder after rinsing and before freezing for a yummy popsicle effect!
- Raw veggies with two tablespoons dip, or hummus
- 1 serving whole grain crackers
- 1 serving plain or light popcorn
- Consider adding seasonings to plain popcorn (garlic powder, cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, oregano, etc.)
- granola bar (less than 10g sugar, and at least 3 grams of fiber)
- 1/4 cup granola (less than 10g sugar, and at least 3 grams of fiber)