Carol Hans, R.D., Ph.D.
Iowa State University Extension
Iowa State University
Elisabeth Schafer, Ph.D.
Professor, Human Nutrition
Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University
Nicholas K. Fradgley
Iowa State University Extension
Snacking has become a way of life for both adults and children. Nearly all children eat at least one snack per day, with many children eating two or three.
In a 1993 study, on a typical school day, 40% of the children surveyed did not eat any vegetables; 20% did not eat any fruit; and 36% ate four different types of snack food. The snacks most commonly eaten by all the students were cookies (38%), ice cream (33%), soda (31%), chips (26%), and candy (18%).
In a recent conference concerning children and nutrition, reports showed the preferred snacks are salty/crunchy and ice cream. Although fine when served occasionally, many of these foods have high amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium. Choosing them repeatedly as snacks or including them frequently in meals can lead to poor nutritional balance.
The young child's preference for sweets is related to what parents do or do not allow, according to a Cornell University study of the habits of 122 children aged 36 to 64 months. Children whose parents ate sweets frequently were likely to eat sweets more often than those whose parents seldom ate sweets. Sweet eating was also related to the amount of television watched by the child as well as to the parents' attitude toward giving the child sweets.
The most common nutritional disease of childhood is dental
caries (cavities). In the United States, the average five-year-old
has three cavities. Decayed and/or lost teeth can result in pain
and discomfort, talking with a lisp, damage to the permanent teeth,
and inability to chew normally.
Almost all foods can contribute to dental caries. However, sweet foods are most often to blame. Recent research has shown that the important factor is not how many sweets are eaten but rather how often they are eaten. Eating sweet foods as snacks is more likely to result in tooth decay than eating them at meals.
The type of food also affects the production of dental caries. Chewy, sticky foods tend to cause more cavities than comparable amounts of nonsticky sweet foods such as liquids.
Elementary age children gain weight faster than height. Their
body proportions begin to change as they get ready for their final
growth spurt during adolescence. They need more nutrients than
their adult parents.
Eating between meals can lead to excessive weight gain because so many snack foods are high in fat and sugar.
Follow these guidelines to help your child learn weight-conscious snacking habits.
1. Plan snacks as part of the daily food plan.
2. Serve snacks and meals that satisfy a child's need for extra nutrients and for different types of foods - crunchy, soft, chewy, smooth, hot, cold, sweet, sour, bland, spicy.
3. Never offer food as a reward for good behavior.
4. Limit intake of sweet beverages.
If your child shows a tendency for being overweight, encourage more physical activity and less television viewing. Do not cut back drastically on food intake. Growing children need those nutrients for growth and development.
Poor eating habits often lead to iron deficiency. You can help
avoid this problem by choosing iron-rich snacks, such as peanut
butter, watermelon, meat, and iron-fortified cereals.
Although raisins are a good source of iron, they are not recommended for snacks because their sticky consistency makes then even more likely to cause cavities than granola bars, chocolate-coated cookies with caramel, and fudge bars, according to a study published in the *Journal of the American Dental Association*. However, raisins can be added to cereals or
used in salads, cookies, or bread.
Current research does not support the claims that sugar and
food colors are linked to hyperactivity, criminal behavior, or
increased anxiety. However, meal-skipping, especially breakfast,
appears to harm children's performance in school.
Refusing to eat certain foods or demanding to eat others is one way children - in the 5 to 12-year-old range - practice their growing independence. This is a time of testing values and deciding which ones to reject, modify, and incorporate. Consequently, doing what everyone else is doing becomes more important than doing what parents have taught.
The key for parents at this stage is to strike a balance between providing good nutrition and letting the child make independent decisions. Offer a wide variety of foods, and try to avoid excesses of any one type of food.
BREAD, CEREAL, RICE, PASTA
Minimum Servings: 6
Serving Size: 1 slice bread; 1 roll or muffin; 1 oz. ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup cooked rice, cereal, or pasta
Minimum Servings: 3
Serving Size: 1 medium size vegetable; 1/2 cup cooked vegetable
Minimum Servings: 2
Serving Size: 1 medium size fruit; 1/2 cup canned, cooked, or chopped fruit; 3/4 cup fruit juice
MILK, YOGURT, AND CHEESE
Minimum Servings: 2
Serving Size: 1 cup milk or yogurt; 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese
MEAT, POULTRY, FISH, DRY BEANS, EGGS, AND NUTS
Minimum Servings: 2
Serving Size: 2-3 ounces of meat; 1 egg = 1 ounce of meat; 2 tablespoons peanut butter = 1 ounce of meat
Serving sizes (except for the milk group) should be halved for preschoolers. (The number and size of servings vary according to the age, size, and activity of the child, but it is important that the child receives the equivalent of two cups of milk a day.)
You can substitute grape juice or cranberry juice for the pineapple
and orange juice.
3 packages unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 cup boiling water
1 cup orange juice
Soften gelatin in a little pineapple juice. Add 1 cup boiling water slowly, stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Add remaining juices. Pour into 9 X 12 inch pan. Chill until set. Cut into finger lengths. Store in covered container in refrigerator. Makes 72 pieces, each having 4 calories,
3 mg vitamin C, and 0 mg sodium.
Make up your own variations using other fruits and juices.
1 small frozen banana, cut into chunks
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup orange juice
Put all ingredients into the blender and whirl until smooth. These are fairly thick. Add more liquid if you want them thinner. Makes 2 servings, each having 125 calories, 213 mg calcium, 10 mg vitamin C, 7 grams protein, and 160 mg sodium.
Serve the following alone or with cheese, cottage cheese or yogurt dips, or peanut butter: celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green pepper, green beans, cucumbers, mushrooms, zucchini.
Choose small, whole fruits in season to reduce cost and waste; cut in slices or halves for variety. Monitor for seeds, pits, and tough skin, depending on the age of the child. Serve plain or with cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, or yogurt: apples, apricots, bananas, cherries, grapefruit sections, peaches, grapes (seedless for preschoolers), oranges, pears, plums, melons, pineapple, strawberries.
Vary your snacks by serving plain or with cheese or peanut
butter and milk or fruit juice. Try pumpkin, zucchini, banana,
or cranberry bread and bran, corn, apple, banana, or blueberry
muffins. Serve bagels, homemade soft pretzels, bread sticks, non-sugared
cereals, or a snack mix made with popcorn and whole grain cereal.
Plain cookies, such as oatmeal or molasses,
add variety. Avoid cookies with icing or sweet fillings. Bake your own cookies, replacing half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and decreasing the sugar by 1/4 cup.
TO MAKE BAGEL CHIPS: Slice bagel into 1/4-inch slices and arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until crisp and light brown.
TO MAKE CORN TORTILLA CHIPS: Cut a 9-ounce package of corn tortilla into 6 wedges each, and arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-11 minutes or until crisp.
You can make shakes with milk or yogurt and fruit. Other dairy snacks include yogurt-fruit juice popsicles; yogurt with fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, applesauce, and/or granola or dried fruit; baked custard; and cheese cubes, slices, or sticks.
Unsweetened fruit juices can be whipped full-strength with an equal volume of ice in a blender to make a nutritious low-sugar "frosty."
Children under school age can choke easily on some foods, including nuts, popcorn, pits or seeds from fruit, and chunks of hard vegetables, such as carrots. Grating or finely chopping some of these foods may reduce the risk of choking. Always remove gristle from meat.
Check your library for these books:
1993 *American Heart Association Kids' Cookbook*. 1993. Random House.
Berenstain, Stan and Jan. *The Bernenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food*.
1985. Random House.
Hoban, Russel. *Bread and Jam for Frances*. 1964. Harper and Row.
Katzen, Mollie. *Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for
Preschoolers & Up*. 1994. Tricycle Press.
Lansky, Vicki. *Feed Me - I'm Yours*. 1986. Meadow Brook.
Leedy, Loreen. *Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day*. 1994. Holiday House.
Satter, Ellyn. *How to Get Your Kids to Eat - But Not Too Much*. 1987. Bull
Sharmat, Mitchell. *Gregory the Terrible Eater*. 1980. Macmillan.
Williamson, Sarah and Zachary Williamson. *Kids Cook! Fabulous Food for the
Whole Family*. 1992. Williamson Publishing.
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Print - 2 pages
DOCUMENT REVIEW:: Level 2 - Iowa State University Extension
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 17K or 6 pages
ENTRY DATE:: November 1995
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