Research shows how the overall energy intake of children increases while the diet quality decreases, as they move from toddlers to teens. Specifically under scrutiny were their snacking habits, which showed the greatest area of decline when it came to ‘healthy choices’. Now this may very well be the fact that the younger children have their snacks chosen for them, whereas older kids may be left to make their own (unhealthy) choices, but the advice was clear: by instilling good eating habits in younger children will set them up for a lifetime of healthy food choices and for parents to encourage snacks that are ‘nutrient rich, rather than calorie dense’ in children of any age.
Dr Sally Norton, looks at choices for lunch box treats which represent a healthier snacking choice:
A regular favourite with the adults, they’re equally popular with the next generation. Why not pop one in their lunchbox instead of a sugary cake for break-time?
These rolls are simply dried fruit and a little veg, gently baked. No added sugar and another one of their 7 a day. While we still need to be careful of sugar intake, even from fruit, these fun treats are infinitely better than a packet of sweets and the collectable cards in each pack will test their brains too.
3. Nut butters
As long as your tots are not allergic, nut butters are a great savoury snack as the high protein hit will keep them full. Cashew is the sweetest, child-friendly variety we’ve tried – but let your brood find their own favourite. Then simply try a variety of ‘vehicles’ for your butter of choice – a teaspoon of butter between two apple wedges, or spread on some oatcakes.
4. Root veg crisps
One for the weekend when you’ve got more time, and an easy one for youngsters to get involved with making, these veggie crisps are a great alternative to additive and salt-laden bagged snacks. Simply thinly slice a selection of root veg – carrots, parsnips, beetroots, sweet potatoes are all great – toss in a little olive oil (you want them just coated, not greasy!) and cook in a preheated 200 degree C oven for 15-25mins until golden.
And it’s not just about health, children’s behaviour can be influenced by what they eat. You only have to see a group of five-year-olds going ‘hyper’ after cakes, sweets and biscuits to know that sugar sets them spinning. On the other hand, children who eat fruit, veg, oily fish and wholegrain all high in nutrients and low in salt, sugar and processed foods tend to have better behaviour, less risk of obesity and other illnesses and so have a rosier future ahead. What we feed our children can either boost or damage their health – it’s our choice.