Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Healthy snacking: a guide to grazing for kids to keep them going throughout the day

Snacking, good or bad, cannot be ignored as it happens so regularly. But what is the best way to approach these snack attacks with kids? UNCLE TOBYS Nutrition Ambassador and mum of three Kathleen Alleaume shares her guide to healthy snacking.

Snacking often gets a bad rap, but in fact, snacking can be part of a healthy and balanced diet. Young children require energy and good nutrition to help them grow and develop. Often, though, their tummies are too small to get all their energy requirements from mealtimes alone. 

Research has shown snacks can provide up to 30% of children’s energy and nutrient requirements which is important to help to fill in certain nutrient gaps left by meals.

On the flip side, some children have insatiable hunger, which can leave you in a tricky spot. So, knowing how to decode your child’s appetites is key. Here are my top tips.

Is snack time too sporadic?

Do you hand over a rice cracker when your child says they’re hungry but often find yourself doing this on the hour as the day rolls on? If your child is constantly grazing without rules, they’ll always be looking for the next thing to chomp on (hungry or not). And this is a slippery slope to developing poor diet habits later.

Set a mealtime structure and stick with it. That way they will learn that they need to eat up big at breakfast, as they won’t get a snack until 10am or call last snacks at 3.30pm to allow enough time for them to feel hungry for supper.

Hunger vs craving?

All too often my three kids persistently pester me for a snack and when I recommend a piece of fruit, they turn their nose up. Try digging a little deeper and ask whether they are “hungry in their belly or just feel like food in their head.” It’s important for them to understand the difference between ‘real’ hunger and food-seeking pester power, especially if they only ate breakfast 30 minutes ago.

What constitutes a snack?

To be fair, just a piece of fruit or some rice crackers just doesn’t cut it at the best of times, especially for the older kids.

For a well-rounded snack with sustenance, always opt for a combo of carbs and proteins. This can mean pairing fruit with yoghurt or nut butters, whipping up a smoothie of milk and fruit or leafy greens, or including whole grains with seeds, hummus, or cheese. Get a plate and mix up a little variety (even if that includes a few crisps).

What on-the-go foods should I be eating?

When it comes to eating on the run, there’s a lot of focus on protein, but ideally you should look for something that contains a combination of high fibre carbohydrates for sustainable fuel, as well as protein for appetite control.

The following bite-sized eats are easy to stash, safe to store and ready at your fingertips. A combination of these will give you that protein/carbohydrate ratio.

Whole grains are an easy way to boost your fibre intake, which is important for digestive health. Right now, I’m loving UNCLE TOBYS Muesli Bars. They’re made with 100% Australian oats, with no artificial colours or flavours. So, a great snacking option for a tasty treat, that will also give the kids energy. 

Fresh and dried fruit can satisfy that afternoon sweet craving while tiding you over with filling fibre. Paired with a handful of nuts or seeds makes a balanced trail mix snack.

Nut butters have the same health benefits of eating whole nuts and pair well with fresh fruit and wholegrain crackers. Choose varieties with no added salt or sugar.

Popcorn is a whole grain that also dishes up fibre and is relatively low in calories. Stick to plain air-popped varieties with no added fats and sugars. 

Canned fish packs a nutritious punch offering the all-important omega-3 fatty acids and ready-to-eat protein. Eat them on top of those healthy whole grain crackers.

Roasted chickpeas/beans have fibre and protein that helps to satisfy your hunger and reduce your appetite.