Children up to 10 years need to eat every four to six hours (maybe more) to ensure they have enough energy. Keep in mind, however, that grazing all day isn’t ideal due to the continual exposure of the teeth to food. It is recommended that between 1.5 and 2 hours is left between snacks/meals to prevent long periods of eating that can lead to tooth decay. Your child should eat regular meals which include two to three snacks a day. Snacks are vital to reduce hunger, support ideal growth, maintain energy and provide nutrients. In fact, many children (particularly those in childcare) get around 50% of their nutrient requirements in meals and snacks before the evening meal.
Ensure that snacks are as nutritious as meals, avoid overly fatty foods and sweetened foods or drinks (eg. fruit juices) that are energy dense and can fill up a small stomach. Giving milk after a snack rather than before or with can be a good idea. It can also be helpful to have jars of healthy snacks in the fridge and cupboard that can be rotated, for example sun-ripened sultanas, dates, figs and apricots, choosing one fruit each day and rotating them. Another may be crackers which can vary from wholemeal, rice crackers, rye and even gluten-free, again rotating. You can do the same thing with breads, varying brown bread, rye bread, spelt bread, pumpernickel and so on. These foods can be stored and will keep for some time; they can then be combined with fresh fruit, yoghurt and other fresh foods. So, for example, a child may have snacks composed of strawberries, sun-dried figs, wholemeal pumpkin scones and natural yoghurt one day; then apple, sun-dried apricot halves, rye crackers and cheese the next, and so on.
The following ideas are provided in order to assist you in meeting one of the most important dietary guidelines – VARIETY. Some are for home while others can be used for lunchboxes and bags.
Personally, I like to offer both fruit and something more sustaining at every snack – for example fruit and yoghurt, fruit and crackers, fruit and cheese. Snacks may include:
This information has been provided by Leanne Cooper. Leanne is a qualified nutritionist and mother of two very active boys.