Snacks have become the new 4th meal. As kids get in the car, or stroller, they almost instinctively ask for a snack. Snacking, especially for young kids, can be an important way to handle hunger, but it can also derail meal times and be a source of empty calories. Here are some suggestions to handle snack time:
- Set up a snack-time window at least a few hours before a meal. Commit to only snacking during the snacking windows. 10am and 3pm are good times for many preschoolers.
- Offer up small but satisfying choices. Too often we default to highly processed, portable snacks (think pretzels, Goldfish and granola bars). Instead, pack or offer fresh fruits and vegetables (clementines, bananas, cherry tomatoes and pepper slices are great options). Include something satisfying, like peanut butter, hummus, or yogurt. Keep it small. Snacks are not mini-meals. Kids should be satisfied but be hungry for the next meal.
- Talk about how kids are feeling. If your kids are always asking for a snack, talk to them. Are they really hungry, or just bored? Tired? Needing attention? Help your kids identify how they are really feeling, not just resorting to being “hungry.” And keep to the snack-time windows.
First Bites is a non-profit organization that runs programs in preschools and early childcare centers to get kids excited about eating fruits and vegetables. To learn more about the program and for more ideas on what and how to feed children, visit firstbites.org, Facebook.com/YourFirstBites or follow us on Twitter @FirstBites.