Monday, March 22, 2010

Should I feed my child snacks?

Having worked with parents through the years, one of the challenges and fears that often surfaces is whether or not to allow children snacks.  Some parents worry that snacks will ruin a child's appetite for a main meal, like dinner, or that it will cause a child to overeat.  In my expert opinion, I give planned, healthful snacks two thumbs up for several reasons.

Children are growing, so they have high energy and nutrient needs.  In fact, children need more calories, protein, and other nutrients per pound of body weight than adults do!  Children, especially young ones, have smaller stomach capacities and variable appetites, so planned, healthful snacks provide the perfect opportunity for children to better meet their energy and nutrient needs throughout the day.

Planned snacks also provide a little more structure and routine around a child's eating.  Children do well with routines because they feel more confident when they know what to expect. In turn, they may be less likely to scarf down food when it becomes available or to become food beggars between meals.  This routine can also put a parent's mind at ease when a child doesn't eat as much as expected at mealtime because she'll know that the child will have the opportunity to eat again in a few hours anyway.

Parents are in the position to encourage lifelong, positive eating behaviors in children. A child that eats nutritious, planned snacks will be more likely to become an adult who eats  nutritious, planned snacks.  For adults, snacks help provide a steady supply of energy to the body throughout the day, which helps optimize performance in everyday activities and curb between-meal hunger levels.  Snacks also provide the opportunity for adults to fill in the food group gaps that may have been left at meal time.

Stay tuned for the next post where I'll discuss tips on how to build a healthful snack for kids.        


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