Proper snacking won't ruin kids' appetites

March 29, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Times have changed since the days when moms routinely said to children eating between meals, "You'll ruin your appetite!" Nowadays, the value of snacks as quick pick-me-ups is widely recognized. Snacks are recognized as an important part of a child's diet.

Plan snacks just as you plan meals.

Try sitting down once a week and planning both meals and snacks and, if appropriate, inviting your children to participate in the planning. Then go to the grocery store with list in hand. You'll save both money and time, and you'll be stocking up on healthful snacks. If your children know what there is to snack on, then they won't spend time standing in front of the open refrigerator wondering what to eat.

For younger children, limit the range of choices. Don't ask your child, "What do you want for a snack?" Point them in the right direction by asking, "Would you rather have yogurt or string cheese?" or "Would you prefer sliced turkey or sliced ham?"


When it comes to kids' nutrition and health, snacks can be a problem. More than half the snacks eaten by American children are cookies, desserts, potato chips, salty snacks, candy and gum. However, the good news is that you, as a parent, can help children make healthful snack choices. If you make fruits and veggies available during snack time or have them ready to go in the refrigerator, kids will choose those more often.

With snacks, as with sit-down meals, parents should be eating the same food your kids do. Kids tend to do what we do, eat what we eat. Try not to be too restrictive, or you'll lend junk foods an appeal that will just make them more attractive. A candy bar once in a while is perfectly OK, especially if you walk to the store together to buy it, and then share it.

Stock your pantry and refrigerator with some healthful children's snacks:

  • Peanut butter-stuffed celery

  • Meat or cheese and chopped vegetables wrapped in a tortilla

  • Yogurt and fruit

  • Vegetables and bean or cheese dip

  • Crackers and cheese

  • Homemade trail mix of cereal, dried fruits and nuts

Just as parents make it their business to know what kids are eating, they also might want to monitor the children's exposure to television advertisements for sugary cereals, sodas and other foods; discuss what they're seeing and give them age-appropriate information about good nutrition. You can introduce them to MyPyramid information and materials designed specifically for children ages 6 to 11 by visiting and click on "For Kids." You will find a game, poster and coloring pages to help promote the message of nutritious food choices and being physically active.

If you would like a copy of "Tips for Families - Eating and Physical Activity" tips, visit and click on For Kids or send a self-addressed, stamped (39 cents) business-size envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope, "Tips."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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