Six Tips for Smart Summer Snacks
“Mom, I’m hungry!”
“I’m so hot, I just need a popsicle to cool down.”
“But I can’t wait for dinner!”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? It’s summer and that means kids are home from school and most likely in the kitchen looking for something to eat.
As a parent, it seems like my kids are always snacking, yet never eating a meal. That’s the dark side of snacking. But there is a light side to snacking: Snacks can help kids get important nutrients they need. The right snacks can also help keep kids hydrated in the hot summer months.
Here are some tips to take control of the summer snacking in your house:
Establish set snack and meal times.
One of parents’ responsibilities for feeding children is providing regular meals and snacks. Because young children have smaller stomachs, they can’t eat as much at once, so snacking between meals helps provide nutrients and calories they need to grow. However, constant snacking can interfere with hunger at meal time. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Smaller children need 3 meals and 2 snacks a day and older children need 3 meals and 1 snack a day (unless they are going through a growth spurt), Click here for additional guidelines on snacking from AND.
Keep snack size reasonable.
A snack is meant to just tide a child over until the next meal, not BE the meal. A good rule of thumb is to offer one item from two or three different food groups. Examples can include yogurt with a few strawberries and 1 graham cracker. Or, a serving of cereal and milk. The government’s Choose My Plate has more information on the food groups and amounts kids need for a healthy diet.
Note the difference between a snack and a treat.
Even young children can understand the concept that snacks are nutritious and treats are something that they can enjoy once in a while. Snacks should offer some essential nutrients and be from the main food groups: Grains, dairy, fruit, vegetables or protein. A treat, such as a cookie, is fine once in a while. Serve it with another nutritious food, like a glass of milk or a piece of fruit.
Use snacks to hydrate.
In the summer, kids who are playing outside in the heat need to make sure they stay hydrated. While water and milk are the best source of hydration for most levels of play, snacks can also fill this need. Foods high in water content include fruits (watermelon, grapes, strawberries), vegetables (cucumbers, grape tomatoes) and yogurt. Click here for more tips on keeping kids hydrated, especially after playing sports.
Pack smart for sports.
Many kids play sports in the summer and snacks are often served after playing. This is an opportunity to provide hydrating and nutritious foods to help kids replenish fluids and fuel. Individual containers of chocolate milk packed in a cooler is a great option. Throw in some cheese sticks or yogurt tubes. This resource has other easy, nutritious ideas for sport team snacks, as does this article from AND. Read our previous blog about healthy snack ideas for active kids.
Try a new recipe!
Okay, so snacks can be really easy: Grab a whole piece of fruit, a cheese stick, or a yogurt and a spoon. But if you are looking for a fun summer activity with your kids, spend a little time in the kitchen making one of these fun snack recipes: