Do Kids Need Snacks?
Are snacks really necessary for a child?
There is some debate as to whether or not kids need snacks. Natural snacks are a great way to feed kids on the go and keep them topped up between meals. However, whether they need snacks or not probably depends on the child as much as anything. Some children will eat big portions at meal times and be fine without snacks in between whereas other children may prefer to eat smaller portions and top up with snacks.
Keeping hunger at bay and evening out spikes and dips in energy can really help with mood and behaviour especially in young children who are prone to get cranky if they are hungry or tired.
Snacking between meals not only stops them from feeling hungry but it boosts their energy and helps them to concentrate. Children use a lot of energy running around and also when they are growing. So if they are having a growth spurt you might find they are particularly hungry and asking for more snacks than usual.
Snacking is also a good way of making sure children get all the nutrients they require, especially if they are picky eaters. Offering fruit or veggies between meals is a great way of making sure children get enough fruit and veg in their diet. And you can also include lots of protein and fibre at snack time.
When Should Kids Snack?
As mentioned most younger children will eat smaller amounts more often so will often have three meals and two snacks a day. As children get older this will often go down to three meals and 1 snack, but every child is different.
Ideally meals and snacks should be offered at regular times each day. And if you do this you should be prepared for hungry tummies at these times. Snacks should be offered a few hours after one meal and a couple of hours before the next. If snacks are available too close to meal times children might refuse to eat knowing they have snack options later, or fill up on snacks and not be hungry for meals.
For some children not being too hungry at meals can actually be of benefit as it means they don’t over eat. So offering a snack that is healthy a couple of hours before meal time can help them regulate their hunger and actually mean they eat a better amount over all.
Care should be taken not to offer snacks as something to do to avoid boredom or as a reward for good behaviour as this can lead to unhealthy eating habits as children grow older and associations between food and behaviour or moods. Giving treat foods as a reward can also lead children to think these are better foods and cause them to make unhealthy food choices as they grow up.
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