Snacking should not be a substitute for eating regular meals, but it is normal that active and growing students may need snacks between meals. Adults can hep students develop good habits by modeling healthful eating behaviors, encouraging students to start their day with breakfast, and providing opportunities for physical activity (at least one hour every day).
Other guidelines you might want to use to help model healthful behaviors:
- Keep fresh fruits and vegetables readily available. Wash and prepare produce ahead of time, then keep it in the refrigerator for easy snacking later.
- Keep beverage choices healthful. Choose low-fat milk (1 cup serving), water, and small amounts of 100% fruit juice (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than a 6 oz. serving of 100% fruit juice a day). Avoid soda, sweetened juice drinks, and sports drinks!
- Look for snacks that have at least 2 grams of fiber per serving listed on the nutrition label.
- Choose whole grain snacks as much as possible.
- Choose low-fat dairy products (for children over age 2).
- Snacks that include at least two of the major food groups are best (carbohydrates, proteins, dairy, fruits and vegetables). For example, an apple and graham crackers, or cottage cheese with peaches.
- Make it a good habit for your child to brush their teeth or at least rinse their mouth with water after they finish eating snacks. Sugary snack foods that stick in the teeth pose the greatest risk for tooth decay.
Aim for snacks low in fat, sugar and sodium. The Massachusetts Action for Healthy Kids guidelines promote the following snack limits for fat, saturated and trans fat, total carbohydrates, and portion sizes:
- TOTAL FAT: No more than 30% of total calories from fat or 7 grams maximium per serving, not including seeds and non-hydrogenated seed butters served within portion guidelines.
- SATURATED AND TRANS FAT: No more than 10% of total calories from saturated and/or trans fat or 2 grams maximum per serving.
- TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES: No more than 30 grams of total carbohydrate per serving (including natural and added sugar).
- PORTION SIZE: Strive for small portions of snack, except for fruits and vegetables
- Fruits and vegetables -1/2 cup minimum (eat at least 2.5 cups total each day)
- Yogurt - 8 ounces maximum (about 3/4 cup)
- Cheese - 2 ounces maximum (a small handful)
- Trail mix and seeds - 1.25 ounces maximum (about 1/3 cup)
- Non-hydrogenated seed butters - 4 tablespoons maximum
- Chips, crackers, popcorn - 1.25 ounces maximum (1-2 large handfuls)
- Cookies, cereal bars - 2 ounces maximum (a small handful)
- Bakery items - 3 ounces maximum (a handful)
For more information about Action For Healthy Kids please visit www.actionforhealthykids.org.