What are the benefits of snacking for children?

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
Children are unable to meet all of their nutritional needs by eating only 3 meals/day. To adequately meet their needs, they need regular meals and snacks. Snacks should be thought of "mini meals" and help fill the gap of nutrients that might otherwise be missed. Sample snacks can include:
  • crackers + cheese
  • apple slices + peanut butter
  • carrots + hummus
  • yogurt parfait
Somewhere along the line, snacks got a bad rap. Perhaps it was the constant warning “No snacking between meals, it’ll ruin your appetite!” that caused it. Certainly, munching on too many cookies can cause kids to lose their appetite for meals.

However, when chosen wisely, snacks can provide another opportunity for kids to get the nutrients they need. When your kids are young, they need smaller portions of food more often since their stomachs are pretty small. The trick is to make sure that snacks pack as much nutritional punch and fiber as possible without adding a lot of saturated fat and calories.

Small snacks can also be an effective way to reduce destructive eating behaviors such as overeating. Snacks help children stave off excessive hunger, so they don’t become ravenous and reach for junk food instead of healthy alternatives. On the other hand, your child should not be snacking so much that she’s not hungry for meals.

Establishing set snack times will help avoid what may be called emotional eating: snacking because one is bored or stressed.

Make it as easy possible for your child to reach for that cut-up fruit and yogurt instead of the bag of chocolate-chip cookies. If healthy snacks are as convenient as the high-sugar, high-fat ones, you’ll encourage healthy snacking behavior.

From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.
Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.