SNACKS FOR SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN
National Network for Child Care's Connections Newsletter
Karen M. Chapman
Human Development and Family Studies
University of Illinois Cooperative Extension
Snacking has a bad reputation in today's society. The importance of eating regular meals has been stressed so much that frequent snacking may be seen as a bad thing.
When children are active, they require more calories. If their activity level is moderate to high, they may need more calories than adults. Although a school-age child may be sitting in a classroom for most of the day, there is also gym class, recess, and after-school activities.
The school-age child may have many more social "events" than an adult does in a day. Activities that revolve around food are a very important way to learn social skills. Providing frequent opportunities for school-aged children to eat with other children and adults meets their nutritional needs, and it provides opportunity for socialization.
So snacking may be fine, even good, for school-age children, but all snacks are not equal! Because snacks can provide a substantial amount of a child's food intake, they should be nutritious. Nutritious snacks will help children get all the vitamins and minerals they need each day. To make wise choices, use the food pyramid when you are planning snacks and meals. This useful tool will help you provide the children with the correct number of servings from the dairy, fruit, vegetable, and grain groups.
Snacking has also been attacked for increasing cavities. The two main factors that increase the risk of cavities are the length of time that food is in a child's mouth and the amount of sugar that is in the food. If a food is sticky or is sucked on, it stays in the mouth longer. Foods like caramel-covered popcorn and suckers are more likely to cause cavities. Some foods that are a problem when they are eaten alone are not such a problem when they are eaten as part of a meal. During a meal, teeth have a better chance of being "cleaned" of sugary substances by other foods and liquids. The best plan is to keep sticky foods like dried fruits as part of the meal and give fresh fruits or plain popcorn as a snack. And don't forget to teach children to brush their teeth every time they eat.
Although nutritious foods are best for a child's snacks and meals, don't eliminate certain other foods completely. Denying a child birthday cake, Halloween candy, or holiday cookies may make the child want those foods more often. This is also true of foods like french fries, chips, or cookies. These foods do provide calories, which the child may need! As long as other nutrient requirements are met, extra calories usually won't hurt an active child. Including these foods occasionally may also teach the child about moderation, and that's something they'll need to practice later in life!
Snack time is a good time to practice eating fat calories in moderation. Many of our common snack foods are high in fat, but alternatives are available. Help the school-aged child to read labels and evaluate the nutrition of the snack they've chosen. Remember that children model their parents, teachers, and other older children and adults. If you choose healthy snacks for yourself, a child who is watching will learn about good eating habits.
What about children who skip meals and want only snacks? If the snacks are nutritious, you are helping make sure that nutritional needs are being met. Children may have widely fluctuating food intakes. Don't force a child to eat. They need to learn to eat when their bodies tell them they're hungry. And don't let children use food to manipulate you. Parents and teachers can provide food, but it is up to the child to eat it. This attitude provides a balance between the structure of mealtime and freedom of choice.
(from *Kids' Team! Curriculum Cards,* University of Nebraska Lincoln, Cooperative Extension)
1 graham cracker
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Add-ons: 1/4 banana, sliced; 2 tablespoons applesauce, 2
tablespoons crushed pineapple
Sprinkle-ons: 1 teaspoon each of raisins, sunflower seeds, crisp rice cereal, granola, coconut
Break each graham cracker into two squares. Using a table knife, spread each square with peanut butter. Select one of the add-ons to spread on top of cracker. Sprinkle one or more of the sprinkle-ons on top.
1 carrot, grated
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 slices raisin English muffins (could be toasted)
Clean carrot and shred into small pieces. Mix all ingredients except bread. Spread on English muffin halves. Serve.
1/3 cup lowfat cream cheese
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon crushed pineapple
2 bagels, sliced in half
Mix cream cheese, pineapple, and nuts in small bowl. Spread on each half of the bagels. Serve.
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut
1/4 cup rice cereal
Peel and cut bananas in quarters crosswise. Spread with peanut butter. Roll in coconut and rice cereal. Serve immediately or chill until served.
16-oz. carton lemon or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup Grape Nuts
1/4 cup fruit of your choice
Sprinkle Grape Nuts in the bottom of a dessert cup. Add a spoonful of yogurt. Add fruit and top with more yogurt. Sprinkle Grape Nuts on top.
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