Healthy snacks for healthy kids
Snacking between meals was thought to be a no-no, but between snacking can be healthy.

Snacking between meals has traditionally been a no-no. “You’ll spoil your dinner,” your own mom probably warned you as you inched towards the biscuit tin. But between-meal snacking can be a healthy habit, helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and discouraging overeating at mealtimes.

Studies show that snacking during the school day may be beneficial for mood, performance and concentration. The important thing is that snack foods should be healthy foods:

  • Watch the sugar content. Even seemingly “healthy” choices like yoghurt might be loaded with sugar
  • And the fat content. Check labels and look for snacks with low levels of overall fat and saturated fat, and avoid trans fats (hydrogenated fats and oils)
  • Check calories, particularly if your child has a weight problem. Calories from snacks count towards daily calorie intake and add up surprisingly quickly
  • Go for homemade foods. Packaged and processed snacks bars, chips and so on are often packed with sugar, salt, preservatives and fat. If you make your own, you can cut down on the bad ingredients, bolster the nutritious ones and still give your child a healthy and tasty treat
  • Go for fresh foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables are the ultimate healthy snack
  • Watch portion sizes. Give your child half a bar, rather than a whole one, or share a small packet of pretzels between the children

How to make home-made snacks healthier

If you do make your own snacks, there are several ways to lighten up on the fat and sugar and boost the nutritional value of your own cooking:

  • When baking muffins, breads, brownies and so on, substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour in the recipe
  • In many recipes, you can cut the fat (butter, margarine, shortening, or oil) by up to half by replacing it with a similar amount of a healthier moist ingredient like buttermilk, yoghurt or apple sauce
  • Use the healthier oils where possible. Drizzle with olive oil instead of melted butter
  • Use reduced-fat or fat-free products when available. Try low-fat or fat-free yoghurt or cream cheese, light mayo, and so on
  • Boost the fibre and nutrient content of many foods, including baked goods, by hiding vegetables or legumes in unlikely places – add beetroot, carrots, courgettes, lentils, beans and chickpeas to cakes and breads
  • Pan-fry instead of deep-fry. Better still, grill or steam wherever possible
  • Use more whole grains, like brown rice instead of white. Add barley to soup, or oats to your apple crumble
  • Tinker with the extras – use raisins instead of chocolate chips, for instance, or half the amount of icing on a cake

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