Kids’ snacks are a thorn — a steady, constant thorn — in the side of many parents trying to navigate their way through the family nutrition maze. It can seem like kids want snacks all the time — during activities, between activities, even (make that especially!) when there are no activities.
But a kid’s perpetual need to snack is more than just their special way of torturing you. (Although it’s good for that, too.) It actually has a lot to do with their digestion and biology, and it’s an important part of their overall nutrition. (Plus, snacking really does serve a nutritional purpose: it’s a great way to get more good foods into their diet, believe it or not.)
Here’s what you should know about snacks and how to maximize their positive power:
Not only do your kids need fuel for everyday things like living and breathing, they’re also constantly on the move. So whether or not your kids are resuming organized sports any time soon, chances are they’re burning some serious calories running in circles around the yard or chasing the dog up and down the stairs. And, just like it does for you pre- or post-workout, a snack — particularly one rich in protein — can help fill that void they just burned off. Low-fat cheese, nutty butters, and lean meats, like those in Johnsonville Snackers mini smoked sausages (which pack eight grams of protein per serving and come in three tasty flavors), can power them up to play pirate ship all afternoon, without a mutiny.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: your kids are growing every day, and they need steady fuel (and a lot of it) to make this happen. If you’re calculating their calorie needs, kids require anywhere from 1.5 to 4 times the calories for their body weight than adults do. (A very active 5-year-old boy may need up to 2,000 daily calories, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. That’s not to say that kids need mountains of food, but they may need more food, more often, than you’d expect.
Kids also have a smaller space in which to put their food (compared to us fully grown adults) — another reason they’re ready to eat again far sooner than you might be. “Depending on a kid’s age, eating every three hours is totally reasonable,” says Grace Goodwin Dwyer, a registered dietitian in Nashville, Tennessee. Younger kids (toddlers and preschoolers) will need to eat more frequently, and older kids less, to take in all the nutrients they need.
A rumbling tummy can make it hard to concentrate, whether that’s on schoolwork, extracurricular activities, or that finger painting “masterpiece” they’re making you. And, as we’re sure you’ve witnessed firsthand, hunger can also lead to some spectacular meltdowns when you mix a famished kid with a situation that frustrates them. Keeping your child steadily fueled can help them maintain an even keel — and, even better, foods that are high in protein, like microwave-and-eat Johnsonville Snackers, can help with focus and attention span.
Kids who snack may have better quality diets, according to research from the University of Minnesota, because they tend to eat foods between meals that boost their overall food mix (even the most devoted mac ‘n’ cheese fan doesn’t usually snack on it too). Even further, one survey found, kids are likely to try new food at snack time, which is a huge win when it comes to slipping in variety, like a fruit or veggie, or yogurt with bone-building calcium. But be warned, constant snacking shouldn’t be the default: grazing all day long can dull kids’ hunger cues. “We also want kids to develop enough hunger so when it’s time for a meal they can sit down and enjoy that ritual with the family,” Dwyer says.
In fact, it’s best to treat snacks as mini-meals, with a macronutrient mix of carbs, fat, and protein, according to Dwyer. “Carbs are a great thing to have in a kids’ snack because it supplies quick, easily digestible energy that will help them feel better right away,” Dwyer says. “But fat and protein supply energy that’s longer-lasting, and it carries them from the afternoon snack to dinner.” Add some complex carbs, tasty cheese, and Johnsonville Snackers (in Smoky Cheddar, Sweet & Smoky Maple, or Pizza flavors) to a plate for a winning snack that will satisfy them through until dinner — yes, really.
This article was created by SheKnows for Johnsonville Snackers.