Snacking is fun for children

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Snacking is fun for children

To keep up with their rapid growth and high activity levels. children need lots of food. In fact, infants and children need more food, pound for pound, than any other age group. But they cannot handle too much food at any one time. What’s a child care provider to do?

Simply supplement healthy meals with nutritious snacks.

A snack can be many different foods: an apple, a piece of cheese or a brownie. Each food offers some nutritional value and has its place in the diet. The trick is to choose snacks that will offer the nutrients the children need without too many fat or sugar calories. Anyone can think of cookies, crackers or brownies for snacks. It takes a creative caregiver to think of a snack that is healthful and tasty. That brownie, while tasty, offers mainly fat and sugar calories.

Selecting smart snacks

Children need lots of nutrition. A “Carry Their Weight” snack packs lots of nutrition, but is light on fat and sugar calories. It is a healthful snack like cheese or meat cubes, small pieces of fruit, raw vegetables, cereal, juices, yogurt or breads.

Children don’t need large snacks. Too much food may prevent the children from being hungry at meal time. Large servings also may overwhelm young children. They may react by not eating anything. This can lead to wasted food.

Children like finger foods. Crackers, raw vegetables, toast triangles, fresh fruit or cheese slices are easy for toddlers to handle and easy for you to clean up.

Children like bright colors. Choose snacks like orange fruit juice cubes or red cherry tomatoes. Cut foods into fun shapes like sandwich triangles, banana rounds, carrot sticks, cucumber circles. Children can easily learn about colors and shapes while enjoying a healthful snack.

Children like variety. For fun, try offering bean sprouts or broccoli florets. Offer a variety of textures for snacks: crisp raw vegetables with smooth dips, crunchy fruits and creamy yogurt, tender moist meats and crunchy crackers.

Avoid choking
We know we want snacks to be nutritious and offer more than just calories. Is there anything else to know about snacks? Yes1 Some typical snack foods can cause children to choke. Choking is a serious concern when caring for young children. In fact, choking kills more young children than any other home accident. Children can easily choke if a snack is eaten on the run, or if foods that are difficult for young children to eat are served. To prevent the children in your care from choking:

  • Never leave the children alone while they are eating.
  • Teach the children to sit quietly and eat slowly.
  • Serve small portions and encourage children to chew their food well.
  • Grind up tough foods.
  • Cut food into small pieces or thin slices.
  • Be careful of round foods like hot dogs. Cut them into strips or small chunks to prevent choking.
  • Remove all bones from fish, chicken and meat.
  • Remove all seeds and pits from fruits.

Some foods are more likely to cause choking than others.

Beware of:

  • Firm, smooth or slippery foods that slide down the throat before chewing, like hot dogs, hard candy, peanuts and grapes.
  • Small, dry or hard foods that are difficult to chew and easy to swallow whole, like popcorn, potato and corn chips, nuts and seeds, and small pieces of raw carrot.
  • Sticky or tough foods that do not break apart easily and are hard to remove from the airway, like peanut butter, tough meats, and raisins or other dried fruit.

Adapted from: Snacking Is Fun for Children, Ohio Cooperative Extension Service

Updated October 22, 2019 9:05am