Snacks are foods eaten outside of a scheduled, structured meal setting. Snacking can be part of a healthy meal plan. However, many snack foods and beverages that give us the most calories are low in important nutrients.
According to a United States Department of Agriculture study, after-school snacks provide about one-third of children’s calories. Because children have smaller stomachs, they need the energy and nutrients snacks provide.
Choosing snacks that offer essential vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats allow children to get the energy they need while helping them meet their daily nutrition requirements. Use these smart snacking strategies:
- Plan snacks. Make them part of daily food choices and provide options from several food groups.
- Encourage regular snack times and amounts. Don’t let children nibble constantly during the day.
- Be a label detective. Limit convenience-type snacks that are high in sugar, fat, and salt and ones that use excessive packaging.
- Create snack stations. Package your own ready-to-go snacks. Set up snack areas in the refrigerator and in a kitchen cupboard. Allow children to choose from either.
- Allow children to be “chefs in training.” Have them help pick out fruits, vegetables, and cheese when shopping. Include them in snack food preparation. Use snacks to introduce new foods.
One snack to try is hummus. Hummus packs a lot of protein and fiber and is easy to make. Raw veggies, crackers, or pita chips can be dipped into this healthy and tasty snack.
Download and print “Snacks for Healthy Kids” at store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/4605.
If you have a child in school, you may have already heard about the new “Smart Snack” guidelines going into effect this year in Iowa schools that participate in the federal school lunch program. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act updated the nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in school vending machines, via a la carte sales in the cafeteria, and at school stores and some fundraisers.
The new “Smart Snack” guidelines are intended to limit the availability of high-energy, low-nutrition foods like sugary beverages, candy, chips, and snack cakes.
The guidelines require snacks to:
- Be a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, dairy product, and/or protein food;
- Provide at least 10% of the daily value of potassium, calcium, fiber, or vitamin D;
- Contain no more than 200 calories and 230 mg sodium;
- Provide no more than 35% of its calories as fat and no more than 10% as saturated fat (exceptions: nutrient-rich snacks such as nuts, seeds, and low-fat cheese); and
- Be no more than 35% sugar by weight.
The below table shows the difference in snacks allowed before and after the “Smart Snack” guidelines.
School Snacks FAQs
Will I break the law if I put a double-fudge brownie in my child’s or grandchild’s lunch? Although it is important that both schools and caregivers promote healthy eating for the well-being of children, the standards do not apply to packed lunches.
Will cupcakes be forbidden at classroom parties? Nope. These rules govern only food sold to children in school, not food that is given to them free.
How can I find out more about the new Smart Snacks standards? For more information on the USDA Smart Snacks standards, visit www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/smart-snacks-school.