Smart Snacking

Topics include: cookies and milk, tips for involving your child with lunch, smart snacking, best drinks for young children, packing a healthful lunch, and come together at mealtime.

Cookies and Milk

Don’t eliminate cookies from your list of snack foods! Take your favorite cookie recipe and make it more nutritious.

Reduce sugar:

Use 1⁄2 the amount of sugar in the recipe.

Reduce fat:

Use 1⁄3 of the amount of fat in the recipe.

Add fiber:

Replace all or part of white flour with whole wheat flour.

Tips for Involving Your Child

Ask your child to help you to create a lunchtime choices chart. Ask your child for at least four favorites for each of these categories: sandwiches, fruit, and veggies. Then create lunches using an item from each list. This helps to make sure that foods your child likes from different food groups are offered regularly.

The other great advantage of this system is that you might find a surprise favorite food. Discovering that your child likes carrot sticks is a nice thing to learn! Also, let your child change his or her favorites, since many children change their favorites over time.

Smart Snacking

Growing children need snacks. Their stomachs are smaller, so they eat less at a sitting. Snacks help to give children the energy and nutrients they need. Schedule snacks at regular times, about two hours before the next meal.

Try these ideas to give children a variety of crunchy and crisp, soft and juicy snacks:

Crunchy and Crisp Snacks

Bread sticks
Pumpkin seeds
Dry cereal (not sugar-coated)
Green peppers
Sunflower seeds
Cookies (with whole grains, reduced fat, reduced sugar)

Soft Snacks

Frozen yogurt
Peanut butter on
Cereal with milk
Hard-cooked egg
Meat, ground or chopped
Pita bread

Juicy and Liquid Snacks

Hot cocoa

Best Drinks for Young Children

The best drinks for young children are milk and water. Fruit juice and soda pop can pile on unneeded calories. One half cup of fruit juice a day is all that is recommended. Preschoolers who fill up on juice may get too much sugar or may not be hungry for more nutritious foods. Parents should offer two or more servings of fruit every day.

Packing a Healthful Lunch

Packing a healthful lunch is one the best ways to help your child’s healthy growth and development. What kids eat for lunch matters to their health.

The percentage of obese children has nearly doubled in the past twenty years. Obesity may be a risk factor for heart, circulatory, and other health problems in adulthood. Healthy lunches can help children develop healthy habits for a lifetime.

While most children don’t eat from all the food groups every day, over the course of several days their food choices usually give them a balanced diet, as long as you are giving them a set of good choices every day. Visit for great ideas to help your child eat well, be active and be healthy.

Ask your child what he or she wants to eat for lunch. Children tend to eat healthier if they have a say in preparing a meal. Ask children if they want one of two choices from the same food group: for instance, you can ask your child if he or she would like a roll or a pita for lunch. Since both of these are from the same food group you can help children to have a choice and keep a balanced diet.

Come together

Children need meals to be a time to stop other activities, sit down together, and have a pleasant time. This is a good time to talk about things that happened during the day. Talk about the food and eating with toddlers and babies. The best mealtime conversation is light and relaxed. This teaches children how to relax and enjoy mealtimes for the company and for the food.

Parents also need to take time to sit down and eat. It is tempting to do chores while the children are seated. But you need to sit down and eat together with your children. This is important because one of the most powerful influences on your child’s eating habits is you. Children learn their habits from watching you enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods, and it benefits you to have some time to relax and enjoy being together with your family every day.

Dietary cautions

  • Be aware of choking risks and food allergies when preparing and serving meals and snacks. Think about the size, shape, and consistency when choosing foods due to the potential choking risks in children.  Food cut in large chunks, small hard foods, and soft and sticky foods should be avoided.  The top choking hazards for children include: hotdogs, meats, sausages, fish with bones, spoonfuls of peanut butter, popcorn, chips, pretzel nuggets, raisins, whole grapes, raw carrots, fruits and vegetables with skins, and marshmallows.  Be sure that food is cut in small pieces (no larger than ½ inch), grated, or finely chopped.  Be sure that children are closely supervised when they are eating.

  • Do not give honey to children under 12 months of age.  Honey contains spores that can cause infant botulism.

  • Many children have food allergies or sensitivities to food. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 90% of children’s food allergies are from milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (pecan/walnuts), fish, shellfish, strawberries, soy, wheat, and gluten.  Carefully read food labels for potential risks and be sure to ask the parents if children have a known allergy or sensitivity.

  • Dental health is a growing concern with young children, so it is important to keep in mind that starchy, sticky, and sugary foods can cause tooth decay.  Children should brush their teeth after any meal or snack, but particularly when you serve these foods.

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Smart Snacking

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