Let’s talk about snack time. The foods we give our kids to munch on in between meals can play a major role in their mood, energy levels and fullness. Here to give us the ‘scoop on snacks’ is Amanda La Torre, mother of 2, fitness expert and General Manager of Saint Mary’s Fitness Center.
RMB: First things first. How many snacks should they be eating? Is there a magic number of snacks we should be putting in our kids’ lunch? What would it be?
Amanda: Kids are very in-tune with their nutritional needs as long as we are providing them with nutritionally sound options. An ideal number of snacks depend on the activity level and age of your child. A simple way to determine the proper amount of snacks is to start with one or two. If your child tells you they are hungrier, consider providing additonal healthy options for them.
RMB: When thinking of snack options, what should be included? Am I totally failing if I include a bag of snacks or a Little Debbie snack cake?
Amanda: Snacks should help achieve a nutritionally-balanced diet and meet each of the suggested portions for the recommended food groups for the day. I like to focus on nutrient-rich vegetables, fresh fruit, dairy and whole grains. And, like most things- moderation is key. A bag of snack chips or a cupcake isn’t necessary to include in a child’s lunch every day. I am not saying to deprive your kids of small indulgences, but reserving these items for special occasions truly makes them feel like a treat, instead of a daily occurrence.
RMB: Time truly is of the essence. Can you recommend any pre-packaged snack options, which are still nutritious… and kid-approved?
Amanda: Hard boiled eggs, yogurt, hummus and vegetables, string cheese, pre-sliced fruit, applesauce, whole grain granola bars (my daughter loves the Organic Kids Cliff Bars). If you are out and about, and don’t have to worry about nut allergies, small pre-packaged servings of almonds or trail mix are a good choice.
RMB: How about some options that do not require refrigeration or a freezer pack (which seem to frequently go missing).
Amanda: Whole grain crackers and whole fruits like oranges and bananas can withstand a considerable about of time in a backpack or lunch box. For smaller kids, I recommend the organic fruit and veggie pouches.
RMB: Do you have any guidelines to suggest to parents and kids for putting together and packing up snacks?
Amanda: Think about snacks that have “staying power” meaning they help your child feel energized and satisfied through the day and avoid the sugar-crashes. Try pairing a carbohydrate (crackers, fruit, veggies) with some protein (egg, cheese, turkey) and each meal or snack.
RMB: Any tips for making snacks more enticing for kids to eat? Many of us have been there where our kids return home with the majority of items untouched in their lunch boxes.
Amanda: Get your kids involved in packing their lunch and allowing them to choose from a variety of healthy options. If they get to decide, they are more likely to eat it! Keeping food visually appealing is also helpful, for example putting fruit slices in fun colored sandwich bags, cutting a sandwich into fun shapes using a cookie cutter, or putting cut up fruit on skewers to make a “kabob” makes lunchtime even more interactive and fun.
This post is sponsored by Saint Mary’s Fitness Center.