Believe it or not, snacks are an essential part of your preschooler's diet. "Many preschoolers get as much as one-third of their total daily calories from snacks," says Tammy Baker, a registered dietician. Baker says that it's almost impossible for kids to get all the nutrients they need in just three meals. "Snacks tide them over," she says.
Learn how to make snacking a healthy part of your child's day with these easy, expert tips.
Pair Carbs with Protein
For long-lasting energy the best kind of snack is one that contains both carbohydrates and protein. Start with a carbohydrate food, such as sliced fruit, a few crackers, or a slice of bread, and then add a small amount of protein, such as a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, bean dip, or a slice of cheese. Crunchy Apple Snacks are a good example that kids will love.
Mix Tastes and Textures
Snack time is a great opportunity for kids to explore new food combinations. Try putting jam on salty crackers so kids can discover what sweet and salty foods taste like when they're combined. For an interesting texture experience, mix a chewy food (raisins) with something creamy (cream cheese) and something crunchy (celery). Or try mixing crunchy and chewy ingredients in some Homemade Granola Bars or Easy Trail Mix.
Put Snacks on the Schedule
Schedule two snacks in between your child's three basic meals, and make the snack-times regular parts of the day. Just try not to offer food less than two hours before or after any meal, or your child's appetite may be affected, and she'll be less likely to eat well during regular meals.
Pay Attention to Portions
Young kids have small stomachs and therefore can't eat big, adult-size portions. If you're making a sandwich for your child, for example, start with one slice of bread and choose kid-sized (1/2-cup) yogurts and juice boxes.
To find out how much of each of the food groups your child should be eating, print and post a Portions Chart for Kids.
Snack for the Season
During summer, when outdoor activities are on the rise and kids' metabolisms take a big jump, they need a little more fuel. Boost their caloric intake by giving kids higher-calorie foods such as peanut butter and cheese instead of increasing portion-size (which could encourage overeating).
Avoid Making Food a Prize
It's hard not to give your preschooler a tasty treat after a job well done, but they will be better off in the long run if you don't use snacks as rewards. The connotation that food is a trophy for good behavior may lead to bad eating habits.
Wind Down at Night
If your child is hungry before bedtime, offer her a light snack, such as a calcium-rich half-cup of yogurt or a hot chocolate--which will fill her up but won't make her uncomfortable.
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