Ask any parent what helps keep their kids fuelled and happy and I’m sure everyone would yell in unison — snacks! Or “'naaacks” as my son likes to say. So why do parents and kids alike enjoy snacks so much? Because hangry kids (and parents, too) are never fun to be around. When blood sugar levels drop so do energy levels.
Although snacks are important, especially for young kids with small tummies, it’s also important to set some snacking boundaries. Because if given the chance, most kids would snack all day and not eat much at mealtime. Enter picky eating. Make sure that eating times are spread out at least every two to three hours, so that your kids can build up an appetite (and not ruin their appetite for their future meal).
It’s also important — especially in the hectic summer months when eating is often on the go — to offer your kids nutrient-dense snacks to keep them energized, but I also know (as a fellow mom) that these snacks need to be convenient, too.
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So, how do we achieve the perfect portable snack? It’s all about the staying power. Too often we reach for quick and convenient snack foods, especially when busy and running out the door. Unfortunately, a lot of store-bought kids’ snack foods have too much added sugar and not enough nutrients to keep tummies, brains and bodies satisfied. In order to achieve a fulfilling snack, there are three key things to think about.
Dietary fibre occurs naturally in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and whole grains. Fibre helps to provide satiety (a feeling of fullness) by slowing down digestion and providing blood sugar control. It can also increase digestive health and lower cholesterol, too!
Kids need dietary fat for proper growth and development. Some fats are called “saturated fats,” which mostly come from animal sources like meat and dairy, and other fats are called “unsaturated fats” and come from oily fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and plant sources like avocado, olive oil and almonds. Fat is essential for proper brain, nerve and heart health, as well as for growth and development. Fat is also digested slowly, which means it provides a sense of fullness for a longer period of time.
Similar to fibre and fat, protein also acts to slow digestion, thereby providing a sense of fullness and satisfaction. Protein comes from meats as well as dairy foods, legumes, nuts and seeds and helps to build and repair muscles and other tissues. The two most common protein-rich foods found in my household for snacks are eggs and lentils. They’re great on their own, sprinkled on top or used in baking recipes!
In order to prepare the optimal snack for my kids, I aim to include at least one protein source and one fruit or vegetable. By doing this I am offering the fibre, dietary fat and protein their little bodies need in order to feel energized and full. This also means they won’t be ravenous in an hour and requesting another snack!
Here are some of my favourite snacks that are great for on the go and packed with staying power: