We’re pretty good at ensuring our kids are eating nutritious, healthy food for their main meals. But when it comes to snacks, there can be a tendency to just let the kids loose in the pantry or fridge for after-school, after-dinner, weekend, or ‘why-not’ snack raids!
The food that children eat is very important. Not only do kids need fuel for day-to-day life, they also require good amounts of nutrients to support their growing body and developing brain. Energy needs can vary from day to day and kids who are quite active or play sports may have higher energy needs. Feeding the appetite of your children can be a challenge – some days it seems they are constantly searching the cupboard for snacks to fill them up!
Snacks are important
Snacks make up an important part of the diet and should be seen as a way to boost your child’s intake of vitamins, minerals and nutrients – rather than a time for treat foods which tend to provide the energy but with less of the nutrients (and often high in saturated fat, sugar, or salt).
The best place to start is with the Food and Nutrition Guidelines which provide the number of serves to aim for each day to help children reach their nutrient needs, or Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDIs). This approach means you can look to fill in the gaps from main meals with healthy snacks.
Here’s a summary of recommendations from The New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines. Kids should eat a variety of foods in regular meals and snacks from each of the four major food groups. Aim to meet your child’s energy needs for activity, growth, and to maintain a healthy body size.
|Food group||Daily recommended serves||Examples|
|Fruit and vegetables:
Different colours and textures
|2+ serves of fruit
3+ serves of vegetables
|About one handful
2 small or 1 large fruit
1 medium potato or kumara
1/2 cup of salad or vegetables
|Breads and cereals:
Increase wholegrain products as children increase in age
|5 serves for children
6 serves for older children
|1 slice of bread
1 roll, pita or wrap
1/2 cup of oat muesli/porridge
1 cup cooked pasta or rice
4 grain based crackers
|Milk and milk products, or suitable calcium fortified alternatives:
Preferably reduced or low-fat options
|2-3 serves for children
3 serves for older children
|1 glass of milk
1 pottle of yoghurt
2 slices of cheese
|Lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds||1-2 serves for children
2 serves for older children
|100g cooked meat
3/4 cup cooked mince, beans or lentils
90g tin of tuna or salmon
1/3 cup nuts or seeds (50g)
Remember, you can accumulate your recommended serves by having smaller portions of a serve size. For example, ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese provides around ½ the calcium you may get in a pottle of yoghurt and is great mixed with avocado for a healthy spread or dip. You may also find 50g of meat or ½ a tin of tuna fits well in your standard sandwich which leaves room for a meat serve at dinner time.
Healthy snack ideas
- 1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese with 2 carrots cut into sticks
- 1/3 cup chickpeas roasted in lemon juice and herbs
- 2-3 grain, rice or corn wafers with 1/2 tin of tuna or salmon and sliced tomato
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on 1/2 a pita pocket
- 1/2 a pottle of low fat yoghurt and 25g of nuts or seeds
- 1/2 a pita pocket grilled with grated cheese, tomato, mushrooms, onion, capsicum etc
- Fruit kebabs
- 1/2 a pottle of low fat yoghurt and 1 small piece of fruit
- 1/2 a cup of reduced fat milk, 1/2 a banana and 1/4 cup of blueberries blended into a smoothie
- 1/2 a cup thinly sliced potatoes, oven baked with 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice and herbs
- 1/4 cup oats and 1/2 a pottle of low fat yoghurt
- 1 boiled egg on 1 piece of wholemeal toast topped with sliced tomato
- 1/2 cup pasta with 1/3 cup of mince and leftover veges, sprinkle with parmesan cheese
- 1/2 a fish fillet cup into strips, coated with lemon juice, then breadcrumbs and baked
- 1/3 of a tin of baked beans on 1/2 a wholemeal bread roll
- 1/2 cup cooked rice with 1/2 cup of tinned tuna or salmon, leftover veges and 1 tbsp. Hummus
- 1/2 a cup of leftover potato chopped into squares and mixed with 1/4 cup cottage cheese with chives
- 1/2 cup of lentil and vegetable soup
Also check out the Healtheries range of KidsCare® snacks which are lower in fats than regular potato chips and are great as a tasty and convenient option in the lunchbox or when you are on the go.
1. Ministry of Health. 2012. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2-18 Years) A Background Paper. Wellington: Ministry of Health. Retrieved from www.health.govt.nz
The information contained in this article was originally published for Healtheries and is reproduced here with permission. Additional content was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ.
For more information about Healtheries products, visit www.healtheries.co.nz.