|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
Snacks for Preschoolers
Filling Nutritional Gaps
No one's busier than the average preschooler. They're so active and imaginative it's no wonder they get hungry between meals and need a snack.
Although growth during the preschool years is slower compared with that of the first 2 years of life, preschool kids still need about 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day — calories that should come from a balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean meat, beans, low-fat milk, fruits, and vegetables.
That's sometimes easier said than done. Some preschoolers don't eat well at mealtime. Others might be willing to eat, but only certain foods. This can leave nutritional gaps in a child's diet. Healthy and well-timed snacks can help fill in these gaps. They also can keep kids from getting overly hungry and cranky.
Tips for Smart Snacking
So how do you turn preschoolers into smart snackers?
Preschoolers are anything but boring, so why should their snacks be? Being creative when it comes to expanding the snack menu doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming.
Here are a few action-snack suggestions to get you started:
Cut it! Use a cookie cutter to cut cheese, veggies, and sandwiches into fun, irresistible shapes.
Dip it! Pair slices of fruit, veggies, or whole-wheat crackers with a side of dip. Whether it's peanut butter, low-fat ranch dressing, guacamole, salsa, applesauce, or yogurt, everyone loves to dip.
Create it! Make art out of food. Try apple-wedge flower petals around a kiwi slice for some flower art. Or maybe fun food faces with berry eyes and a banana mouth.
Sip it! Who says you have to eat a healthy snack? Fruit smoothies made with low-fat yogurt or milk and fresh fruit are a great way for kids to drink up needed nutrients.
Crunch it! Low-fat granola and lower-sugar breakfast cereals are good choices. Also try toasted whole-wheat pita wedges for a satisfying crunch without the salt and fat of potato chips.
Play it! Turn healthy snacking into a game. For example, try making a "food rainbow" on a plate and let your child decide which colors to eat first. Next time, you can do the same with different shapes. Which will it be — squares or triangles?
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD