What Snacks Are Best For My Kids?

A recent study conducted in Australia regarding after school snacking, has revealed that almost half (46%) of all children surveyed, eat biscuits, cakes and pastries after school, with chocolate or other sweets (lollies) being consumed by 17%.

Do you know what, and how much, your child is eating after school?

A lot of common snacks include ready-prepared, portion controlled packages such as cheese and crackers, yoghurt or dairy food, and snack bars. Remember that a snack is just that – it is not a meal in itself so keep the quantity small.

The type of foods often eaten, according to the study, are high in carbohydrates (in the form of sugar), and fat. These are not good choices as they are not nutritionally beneficial.

Let us assume that snacks are essential in your childs daily eating plan, regardless of their age, how do you know what is best?

The best snacks providing essential nutrients to benefit your childs health are:

* high in protein, such as cheese and crackers, snack size salmon or tuna on a cracker or toast
* high in calcium, such as a milk drink or low fat yoghurt
* high in fibre, such as bananas, mandarins, apple, grapes, nuts, toast
* low GI, such as freshly popped pop corn, baked beans, dried apricots

When choosing any snack food (or any processed food for that matter), this is what you need to look for on the nutrition panel:

* Choose foods low in sugar
* Choose foods low in salt (sodium)
* Choose foods with low fat content
* Choose foods with low saturated fat content
* Choose foods high in fibre
* Choose short ingredients lists
* Choose no additives or preservatives
* Choose Heart Foundation Tick, Low GI
* Choose gluten free for wheat allergy sufferers

Just a note about Carbohydrates. On the nutrition panel it may be listed as total carbohydrate. This number tells you how many carbohydrate grams are in one serving of food. This total is broken down into grams of sugar and grams of dietary fibre.

So if the sugars number in a product is similar to the total carbohydrate amount you know that the product is mainly sugar rather than the better form of carbohydrate – fibre or starch.

In summary, have a good variety of nutritious snack foods available. Fresh fruit is ideal. Boredom with the same thing each day and will mean kids will feel the urge to binge on unhealthy snacks. Have a treat occasionally but do not make it a habit.