Remaking Snacking Habits
As a pediatric dietitian, it’s rare to have a week go by without parents asking me for help with snacking. This has been especially true as we have faced weeks of staying home, which also means staying a little too close to our kitchens!
Snacking done right can improve nutrient intake, energy level and overall health. A winning strategy is to view snack time as a time to add more fruits and vegetables combined with smaller portions of protein and whole grains mixed in.
The Right Mix
An optimal snack contains the right mix of nutrients. Achieving an ideal snack is quite simple and straightforward. It’s actually as easy as 1, 2, 3!
- Start with a fruit or vegetable.
- Add a protein source.
- When more energy is needed, add a serving of whole grain.
It’s that simple!
Fruit or Vegetable
Most kids and teens fall short when it comes to eating enough whole fruits and vegetables. Snack time provides a great opportunity to squeeze in more plant-based foods and boost overall nutrient intake.
Including protein with snacks is smart because it adds holding power and stabilizes blood sugar. While dairy foods are not technically part of the official protein group, certain dairy foods such as cheese, milk and yogurt are also great sources of high quality protein.
While kids and teens typically eat more than enough grain-based foods, they generally choose highly processed refined grains that often contain some combination of excess salt, sugar and fat.
Snack time is a good opportunity to choose whole grain options such as air-popped popcorn, whole grain flatbread, pita, tortillas, bread or even oatmeal.
Here are a dozen ideas to get you started.
- Apple slices and peanut butter
- Sweet colored bell pepper slices and hummus
- Edamame and 1 serving of whole grain crackers
- Cottage cheese mixed with avocado chunks
- Celery stuffed with almond butter
- Strawberries and Greek yogurt
- Turkey jerky and carrot sticks
- Pistachios and grapes
- Hard-boiled egg and cucumber slices
- ½ tuna sandwich on whole grain bread and 2 clementines
- Cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella cheese chunks on a skewer
- Spinach roll-ups – spread a large spinach leaf with ricotta, add cracked pepper, roll-up and eat
- (Bonus) Whole corn tortilla spread with refried beans, topped with grated cheddar and salsa