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How to Keep Kids Satisfied With Healthy, Low-Cost Foods

Medically reviewed by: Kathryn Russel, MS, RDN

Parents can help kids feel satisfied with healthy foods that don’t cost a lot.

Here are 3 ways to do it:

1. Teach kids how to listen to their body. Ask your child if they feel hungry or full. With a little practice, kids can start to notice signs of hunger, like a growling stomach or a headache. They can learn that signs of fullness include a feeling like your stomach doesn’t have much extra room in it. Listen to kids when they tell you how they feel.

2. Give your child meals and snacks on a schedule. Eating 3 balanced meals and 1–2 snacks every day helps kids get the nutrients they need to grow and learn. Snacks between meals give your child energy.

Kids need to eat about every 3–4 hours. Without snacks between meals, they may feel extra hungry and then eat too much when they finally have a meal.

This sample schedule shows when to offer a snack. The snack shortens the gap between lunch and dinner:

  • Breakfast at school: 8 a.m.
  • Lunch at school: 10 a.m.
  • Snack: 2 p.m.
  • Dinner: 5 p.m.

3. Offer low-cost foods that are high in fiber or protein. Snacks with fiber or protein help kids feel full longer. Foods with these nutrients take more time to digest. Fiber comes from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Protein comes from beans, cheese, milk, meats, eggs, nuts, and nut butters.

As you make a snack for your child, it can help to know that:

  • Foods you keep in a cupboard often cost less than foods you keep in the fridge.
  • You might already have good options at home. For example, if you have peanut butter, add an apple. If you have pretzels, add a slice of cheese.
  • Some fruits and vegetables (like fresh apples, bananas, celery, and carrots) are less expensive than others all year long. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are good choices too.
  • Many foods are easy to take on the go, like popcorn, store-brand cereals, and peanut butter crackers.
Medically reviewed by: Kathryn Russel, MS, RDN
Date reviewed: September 2023