Kids LOVE snacks! It’s the first thing my kids will ask for after school, after any meal, every 5 seconds!!!! Mum, can I have a snack [on repeat].
But the problem with most snacks is that they are typically the one full of sugars or unhealthy fats or even salt!
We know that children have a faster metabolism and we know that food impacts our mood, so this got me thinking….
Can we snack our kids happy?
Before deciding on giving your kids a snack I think it’s important to have some ground rules!!!
1. Have a schedule – a routine and stick to it! It’s important for your kids teeth that they have a break between meals otherwise tooth decay will be your unwanted gift! They need at least 2 hours for their mouth to neutralise the acid from eating. Drinking water after eating really helps with this.
2. They should be eating their main meals. If your child is filling up all day on snacks, they will not be hungry for their main meals. And snacks are way nicer to a child than dinner! You have been warned!
3. Do not use food as a reward! Never say to a child they can have a snack or treat food as a reward. This will open up THE biggest can of worms ever. Think how we use food as an emotional crutch. Telling the brain of a child that food is a reward is going to cause all sorts of problems later in life!
4. They need to be hydrated. Children (and adults) will often confuse thirst with hunger. Make sure they are drinking enough water (and yes, I did say water!!!). Find out how much HERE.
5. They should be genuinely hungry! Is your child asking for a snack because they are bored? Have you noticed that your child tends to request more food when they are sedentary? Feeding boredom with food is a bit similar to use food as a reward. It will cause problems later in life! Oh, I’m bored, eat something. Oh, I need a pick me up, eat something!!! This is not what you want for your kids!
So, having established some ground rules, you need to know what to give your kids as a snack that will keep them happy, nourished and healthy.
A snack should be low in sugars (especially the refined ones). A teaspoon of sugar is 5g so check any labels and remember we want to aim for no more than 5 teaspoons of sugar across a day! This really isn’t a lot when you start looking at things like breakfast cereals, ketchup, jam, yoghurt, ice-lollies, pasta sauce and even bread! For more help with this click HERE.
A snack should contain some healthy protein. This could be nuts, beans, seeds, fish, egg, quinoa, meat or cheese. A chocolate bar or bag of Haribo isn’t going to give them this! The protein helps repair their bodies, gives them energy and slow down the release of sugars! They will also feel fuller for longer.
One of my favourite snacks is apple wedges with peanut butter (of course use a good brand without added sugar – not Skippy’s).
A snack should also contain some healthy fats. This could be the fats in nuts or seeds, oily fish, olive oil, coconut oil and even eggs. Healthy fats are essential for the brain and for balancing moods. These fats are also needed for heart health and to support the anti-inflammatory pathways in the body. So important!
Hummus is a great dip for kids. It contains both fats and protein without any sugar. Add some sugar snap peas to dip in and you’ve nailed a healthy snack! You can even make a peanut butter hummus. This is so popular with children that I’ve included the recipe in my Summer Food Survival Plan HERE.
I also LOVE an energy ball as they are super easy to make. The kids LOVE them, and this recipe is perfect for its mood boosting properties.
With mental health issues on the rise amongst our children I believe that we can do a lot with food. Food does affect mood, we know this! We know that sugar puts us on an emotional roller-coaster. We know we need the essential fats for our brains to work properly. We know the gut plays a huge role because it’s the second (in in some people’s opinion the first) brain. We know we need to fuel our kids with the right balance of nutrients.
Looking at your kids snacking habit is a great start. There are 25 healthy snack ideas and recipes in my Summer Food Survival Plan. Click here for instant download.
Snack your kids happy and don’t forget there are other ways to help protect their health. Click here for my top 10 ways to do this.
Enjoy the summer holidays!