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Healthy Snacks

Just like a car needs gasoline to run well, our bodies need proper nutrition to function optimally, especially if it is growing and developing rapidly. If you don’t put the right fuel in a car, eventually it will stop working.

If you put only junk food in growing bodies, eventually they will become unhealthy and overweight. For optimum health, three meals plus two healthy snacks per day is necessary.

Snacking is important for children because their smaller stomachs fill up fast and they burn energy quickly. Between meals, snacks give their growing bodies the nutrients and hydration they need.

Younger children will need a morning and afternoon snack. The older school-aged child will not have the option to snack between breakfastand lunch, but and can have a larger snack after school.

As a rule, it is best to offer a vegetable or fruit as the main snack item alongside some whole grain, milk, or protein option.

Studies show that snacks contribute over 20% of the daily energy intake of children. The Institute of Medicine Committee on Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools recommends that 9% of total calories for school age children be devoted to snacks. Taking both of these into account, it is best to limit each of the two snacks to 100 calories each.

If your child needs more calories and eats enough at meal times, you can offer more. If your child has a weight issue, the fruit or vegetable will be enough. For exact amounts, go to or check with your physician or nutritionist.

Snack time should not be perceived as a time to eat junk food; cookies, cake, and chips for example. We can thank the advertisers for most of the misinformation as to what makes a healthy snack.

It is also easy for the busy parent to reach for these junk food items as no preparation is needed and we know our children will eat them.

Being prepared is very helpful; cutting up veggie sticks the night before or making whole grain muffins and freezing them on the weekends ensures that a healthful option is always on hand. Keep fruit and vegetables washed and cut up so it is easy for your child to help him/herself.

When it comes to salty, sweet or fatty options, limit the amount you offer; try not to let your child take what they want. Adults have a hard time limiting the amount of sweet and savory snacks they eat so we should not expect our children to restrain themselves either.

Children need to be taught what the right amount is for their bodies. Remember, you are teaching them information about healthy eating that they will have for the rest of their lives.

Don’t count on them to learn it outside the home.

Examples of healthful snack items are listed below.
• Veggie sticks with hummus
• Yogurt topped with berries or favorite fruit
• Cheese stick and apple
• Tortilla chips with salsa
• Whole grain crackers with cut up veggies or fruit
• Veggie or fruit muffins made with whole grains
• 1⁄2 slice of banana bread with veggies
• Celery sticks plus 1 TBL nut butter
• Trail mix: Nuts, cereal, dried fruit, and/or chocolate chips (watch the calories with the nuts)
• Fruit kebobs dipped in yogurt
• 1⁄2 slice of whole grain bread spread with 1⁄2 TBL sunflower seed butter (or other nut butters) and sliced bananas or apples
• Smoothies: Mix in a blender milk (1⁄2 cup skim), fruit (1⁄2 cup strawberries) and yogurt (2 oz). Kids love them frozen, too.

Print out this list and have your child choose 1 item from each column. Giving your child a sense of power over the selection is important and goes a long way towards teaching them how to eat healthfully.

Remember that you are teaching them a skill necessary to live healthy lives.


1 small apple 1⁄2 homemade whole grain muffin
1⁄2 cup grapes 1⁄2 slice banana bread
1⁄2 cup blueberries 10 baked light tortilla chips
1⁄2 cup strawberries 31 grams
1 orange Eggplant
1 peach 29 grams
1⁄2 cup cantaloupe 3 Nabisco Triscuit Crackers Baked Whole Grain Original
1⁄2 cup honeydew melon1⁄2 cup honeydew melon 6 Regular Whole Wheat crackers
1/8-cup raisins Whole wheat bread 1 slice
1 small pear Small 4” pita bread
1 small banana (up to 6 inches) Other whole grain serving approximately 50 calories
1⁄2 cup applesauce unsweetened 1⁄2 cup low fat or fat free milk
1⁄2 cup fruit cup unsweetened 1 oz low fat cheese stick or slice
1⁄2 cup fruit cup fruit juice sweetened 1⁄2 plain nonfat yogurt (3 oz)
1⁄2 cup mandarin oranges in fruit juice 2 TBL hummus
1⁄2 cup pineapple slices without the juice 1 boiled egg
2 TBL hummus
1⁄2 TBL nut butter
1⁄2 cup raw carrots, or baby carrots 1 oz meat, 1 sandwich slice turkey or ham
1⁄2 cup chopped celery 1⁄2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1⁄2 cup green or red bell peppers Nuts: 8 almonds (56 calories) or 5 walnut halves
1⁄2 cup broccoli
Other Meat/Bean serving approximately 50 calories
1⁄2 cup cauliflower  
1⁄2 cup cucumber  
1⁄2 cup green beans  
1⁄2 cup cherry tomatoes  
1⁄2 cup asparagus spears  
1⁄4 cup salsa  

When selecting a snack item not on the list use the guidelines set forth by The Institute of Medicine Committee on Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools. For foods, it includes only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat and low- fat dairy or a combination product as long as it has a serving of a fruit or vegetable in it.

Plus it must meet these specifications:
1. No more than 35% total calories from fat
2. Less than 10% of total calories from saturated fats
3. Zero trans fat (≤0.5 grams per serving)
4. 35% or less of calories from total sugar (exception yogurt, no more than 30 g per 8 oz)
5. 200mg or less of sodium per portion as packaged

  Dr. Deb's Bottom Line


No matter what snacking looks like in your house, take a positive step towards health by offering a fruit or vegetable at each snack






• Have fruits and vegetables cut up for easy snacking

• Place healthful options out so that children can help themselves to the produce

• Measure out the grain or protein options in small plastic bags or bowls, the serving size for most crackers, chips and bread is very small so check the label

• Nuts and dried fruit are high in calories so watch the serving sizes there, mix them with a lower calorie cereal option for homemade trail mix

• Make sure your child has access to water throughout the day

• If your child is very hungry and a snack doesn’t suffice, serve dinner earlier

• Sometimes the best snacks are leftovers

• Try and not let children eat mindlessly in front of the television. Have them sit at the table for snacks.

• Don’t snack too close to meal time; Two hours before a meal is a good time frame

• Keep junk food out of the house. If unhealthful options are not around, your child will have no choice but to choose the healthier option.