By Sade Meeks, MS, RD
Ever feel like you need a boost? Well a snack may do the trick! Sometimes a snack is just what your child needs to avoid poor energy levels and cranky tendencies in between mealtimes. It is generally recommended children eat every three to four hours to satisfy dietary recommendations. For toddlers, this usually looks like at least three meals and two snacks a day.
Quality snacking can also add a great boost of nutrients! A recent study demonstrated how snacking improved the diet quality among young boys. It was found that among minority groups, at least one-third of the calories consumed by children were snacks eaten between meals, suggesting that quality snacks have the potential to improve diet quality (1).
Diet quality is measured using the Healthy Index Score (HEI). The HEI is evaluated using a scoring system for 13 different food components. The total HEI-2015 score for Americans is 59 out of 100. This tells us that for Americans, there’s room for improvement. The improve our diet quality focus should be on the following components:
Adequate intake of:
- Total fruits
- Whole fruits
- Total vegetables
- Greens and beans
- Whole grains
- Total protein food
- Seafood and plant proteins
- Fatty acids
Moderate intake of:
- Refined grains
- Added sugars
- Saturated fats
Also, here are some snacking tips for improving diet quality and giving your little one the nutrient boost they need!
Tips for choosing healthy snacks:
- Choose whole foods: Many snacks on the market are full of added sugar and artificial ingredients, which aren’t very helpful in giving your child a boost. In fact, all the added nasties could potentially cause a decline in your child’s energy levels. Choosing whole foods and less processed snacks ensures you’re offering your child goodness needed for a boost of energy and nutrients.
- Offer whole grains: Whole are grains are the less processed carbohydrates that are packed with fiber, support a healthy digestive system, and promote satiety. Choose whole grains that are high in fiber and low in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium – like MESSY MONKEYS!
- Prioritize Taste: Taste is just as important as nutrients because if it doesn’t taste good your child is less likely to enjoy it. Remember you little one’s taste buds are more sensitive than yours. Many children prefer mild flavors and sweet tastes.
- Mix it up: Try pairing snacks with at least two different food groups. This will promote more variety in your child’s snacking. For instance, pair string cheese (protein) with whole wheat crackers (whole grain)
- Plan ahead: Providing quality snacks may require extra planning, but it will be worth it. Simply coming up with a snack schedule, promotes structure and ensures that snacking is spread out between meals.