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Eating Healthy Snacks

Is it healthy to snack?

If your child’s meals are not oversized and snacks are usually healthy, your child can enjoy snacking. In fact, some children need to snack in order to get enough calories.

  • Infants and toddlers need to snack because they have such high energy demands and small stomachs. Toddlers can wait about 2 hours between meals and snacks, so they could have snacks mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and evening.

    If you have a baby or toddler under 1 year of age, ask your healthcare provider about the right time to start foods and what foods to avoid until your child is older. Foods such as nuts, eggs, and dairy may cause serious reactions. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if you have questions about foods or food allergies. Always supervise your baby or toddler while eating to avoid choking. "Choke foods" include raisins, cranberries, grapes, chunks of carrot, nuts, seeds, chunks of peanut butter, hard candies, hotdog pieces, and popcorn. When in doubt, chop it or wait until your child is older. Your child is at risk of choking on these types of foods until age 4.

  • Teens who are growing fast may need to snack because they need more calories and nutrients for their growth spurts.
  • Athletes need to snack to meet increased energy demands.
  • Children who skip meals should snack so they don't run out of energy.

Be careful to limit high-calorie, high-fat foods such as candy bars, chips, and ice cream so that your child can avoid unwanted weight gain and increased health risks. The best choices for snacks are foods that are:

  • Low in saturated fat such as lean meats or low or fat-free dairy products
  • High in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, or whole grain foods

Snacks that are high in protein and fiber may satisfy hunger longer.

Examples of healthy snacks include:

  • Flavored rice cakes or pretzels with cheese or a low fat dip
  • Chopped vegetables or baked tortilla chips with hummus
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter
  • Crunchy vegetables such as carrots, celery, jicama, cucumbers, and sweet peppers with low fat dip
  • Veggies and dip on a small tortilla wrap
  • Low calorie yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
  • Fresh or frozen fruits without added sugar
  • Fat free string cheese
  • Air popped unbuttered popcorn
  • Zero calorie flavored water, mineral water, unsweetened teas, or drinks sweetened with Splenda or Stevia instead of sodas or energy drinks

Can my child eat high-fat, high-calorie foods sometimes?

If your child never eats sweets or high-fat foods, your child will get along just fine without them. It’s also OK to let your child enjoy eating a high-fat, high-calorie snack now and then. If your child wants to have this kind of snack more often, encourage your child stay active.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-09-05
Last reviewed: 2017-01-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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