Practical tips for offering nutritious snacks to children aged 1 to 12
Are snacks essential?
Snacks are important so children can keep their energy up between meals!
Planning snack time
The ideal time to offer a snack is halfway between meals. Offer it at least 2 hours before the next meal. This way, the children will be hungry when it’s time to eat.
Snack time is the perfect opportunity to take a break. You can use this time to talk about food with the children, such as:
- Where foods come from
- Unfamiliar foods
- Everyone’s favourites
Did they get enough to eat?
Many factors affect children’s hunger and appetite from day to day. For instance, children who have had a nourishing breakfast may be less hungry for their morning snack. However, only the children can know how much food they need.
What is a nutritious snack?
Snacks for school-aged children can consist of one or more foods. The choice of specific foods may vary depending on how long it is until the next meal. For example:
- A piece of fruit for a morning snack if lunch is soon
- Whole grain crackers and hummus for an afternoon snack if dinner is not for a while
For young children, the snack would ideally include a source of carbohydrates (e.g., fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereal) and a source of protein (e.g., dairy products, legumes).
- The source of carbohydrates provides quick energy.
- The source of protein maintains energy levels longer. It alleviates hunger until the next meal.
Foods that promote dental health are good snack choices. Because brushing is not always an option outside the home. Foods that are low in acid and sugar and are not sticky are good choices. For example:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grain products
In addition, firm cheese has a protective effect on teeth.
A few nutritious snack ideas
- Raw vegetables*
- Carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, turnip, etc.
- Yogurt dip or small cubes of firm cheese
- Cheddar, Mozzarella, etc.
- Unsweetened fruit sauce or dried fruits*
- Apricots, prunes, cranberries, etc.
- Plain seeds*
- Sunflower, pumpkin, etc.
- Whole grain cereal or homemade whole grain muffin
- Bran, oat, etc.
- Yogurt, milk or UHT milk (milk that can be kept at room temperature before opening)
- Whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita
- Chickpea dip (hummus) or tofu spread
- Cut fruit*
- Mango, pineapple, cantaloupe, peach, kiwi, etc.
- Cottage cheese or homemade milk-based dessert
- Pudding, rice pudding, tapioca, etc.
- Whole fresh fruit*
- Berries, apple, pear, peach, apricot, plum, etc.
- Smoothie or flavoured silken tofu
- Apple slices*
- Soy butter as a spread or yogurt dip
*Foods that pose a choking risk for young children.
For more information about snacks, get a free copy of the brochure Lunch Box and Snack Essentials