Taking good care of the family meals is a difficult task, especially when your child starts going to school. In the rush of everyday life, snacks end up not getting much thought. But it’s possible to offer healthy snacks for your kids, and we’ll help you with that.
School and snacks: a problem for parents
Children’s eating habits take place mainly in two spaces: their home and school. At home, the main meals usually take place during breakfast, and dinner. At these times, the challenge is to get the children used to eating everything, with balanced and complete meals.
When they start going to school, parents often find it difficult to provide healthy snacks for their children to take in their lunch boxes. With the parent’s busy routine, there is a great risk that the child will end up consuming a lot more sugar and eating mainly processed snacks, which are practical options but not always the best choices for their health.
How to prepare healthy snacks for children?
With information and planning, it becomes easier for parents to know what and how to prepare nutritious snacks that will give children the energy they need in their daily lives.
See below 10 tips to provide healthy snacks for children and the rest of the family:
1. More natural and less processed food
Processed food such as white bread, juice boxes, cold cuts, cookies, and packaged snacks are manufactured in ways that alter their original nutritional composition, making them unhealthy snacks. If you’re going to include any processed foods, consider those without artificial food coloring, preservatives, or any ingredients you don’t know what they are.
2. Pay attention to the ingredients
When including a drink or processed food in the lunch box, always read the list of ingredients on the package. To know if a food is healthy, it is important to understand this information. When you check the components and find a name that you don’t know, it can be a sign that it’s not the best option for your child.
The order of ingredients shows the proportion in which they are used in the composition. If sugar is in the first place, red flag! This means that it is an ingredient in greater quantity in that product. If the label indicates the presence of trans fat or hydrogenated vegetable fat, it is also best to avoid it.
3. A well balanced lunch box
When preparing a lunch box, we can follow the same reasoning we used to set up a balanced dish, always having three food groups: carbohydrate, protein, and fruit, in addition to water.
This combination ensures that the child has energy and supplies their nutritional needs during breaks from main meals.
4. Good carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for children, making them more willing to play and study. To ensure healthy snacks, give preference to whole foods or foods rich in fiber. They increase satiety and even improve intestinal health.
Instead of offering bread, which contains simple carbohydrates, one idea is to prepare homemade cakes and bread with oatmeal or brown rice flour, which provides energy for longer.
5. Varied proteins
Proteins are used by the body to produce important elements such as hormones, muscles, skin, and hair, so they should be present in healthy snacks. A good idea is to vary the types of protein offered to your child.
If they already eat meat in their meals, how about including cheese and yogurt in the snack? Some healthy options are cheeses like cottage and ricotta, as well as yogurt and whole milk. Thus, the child also ingests the necessary amount of calcium, which is important for bone development.
6. Fruits and Vitamin Sources
Every child grows up learning that fruits are healthy. They are great sources of vitamins and minerals and have the function of regulating various functions in the body.
Keep in mind the wide variety of fruits available, so don’t always include the same ones in their lunch box. It’s worth opting for seasonal fruits, which can be found for lower prices in farmer’s markets and supermarkets.
In addition to fresh fruit, it is also a good idea to offer the child dried fruit, fruit chips, homemade jams, and natural juices. This is a great way for them to experience different textures and flavors, expanding their taste buds.
7. Water, always!
It’s basic, but sometimes it ends up being forgotten: water is essential in the little ones’ lunch boxes because it hydrates the body and this makes all the difference in their ability to concentrate.
From time to time, try adding coconut water for a change, as it is rich in minerals. If you are buying processed products, try to choose the option without sugar and preservatives.
8. Beware of juices
Like other foods, juices should also be chosen carefully. If you want to put juice in their lunch box, try making it at home or buying one with no added sugars.
For sour fruit juices, prefer to sweeten them with honey or mix it with another sweeter fruit, like apples. If you are going to buy processed juices, go for the ones that are 100% fruit.
9. Plan for yourself!
A good organizational practice to be able to provide healthy snacks for children is to make a plan for the whole week, creating daily lunch boxes with the three main food groups. This makes it easier to organize tasks like shopping for ingredients, freezing whatever you need, and organizing the lunch box the night before, if possible.
This type of organization even helps to avoid wasting food. You’ll be able to know which foods you already have, to prevent them from spoiling and which ones you need to buy right at the start of the week. And of course, it prevents the pantry from running out of snacks and having to run to the store to buy something less healthy.
10. Learn how to save money
Some habits can make a difference on your wallet when it comes to making up your child’s lunch box. The first one is to plan, so you can organize your purchases, avoid waste and take better advantage of sales.
Another tip is to pay attention to regional and seasonal foods, which are usually cheaper. It also helps to have a varied menu throughout the year.
Another great option is shopping in the open markets, where the food is fresher and also tends to cost less. If you arrive a little before the fair ends, you will find even lower prices.
With this information, planning, and organization, it is easier to maintain a healthy diet daily. Getting children used to valuing nutritious foods also helps to develop their taste buds, so they tend to grow up with healthier habits.