Healthy snacks at school: the big challenge!
School snacks can be challenging for many families. Children ask for snacks they like, and are approved by their peers. At the other end, parents want to offer healthy options but have limited time and imagination. If this is combined with some fussiness around food, deciding what snack to give to your child can turn into a battle! Below you will find a few tips and ideas on how to make this process smoother.
Offer some options, but not too many
Make a list of things your child likes and you also agree with. Sit down together and make a plan at the beginning of each week, asking them to choose from two options every day. Encourage them to alternate choices to promote variety. Stick the plan on your fridge; this way, they know what to expect. Getting your child involved in snack preparation can prove extremely useful, and at the same time supports their independence and promotes their self-efficacy.
The right combinations
• Pair up sweet with savoury tastes and different textures
• Combine foods high in carbohydrates (fruit, bread, crackers etc) with others that are high in protein (dairy, egg, seeds, hummus).
• Try to include one portion of fruit or vegetable in each snack.
• Keep it small. You don’t want your child’s snack to spoil their appetite for lunch or go to waste.
Don’t challenge foods at school
Avoid introducing new foods or foods you know your child resists to at school. It’s better to work on those at home, under more relaxed conditions.
Be funny & creative
Children appreciate creativity and have a great sense of humour. Stick a funny post-it note on their snacks, make shapes with sandwiches using shape cutters, or create colourful cheese and veg kebabs to intrigue them.
What to avoid
• Nuts: there may be children at school suffering from a nut allergy. If you want to offer nuts, make sure the school allows them.
• Snacks high in fat and sugar (crisps, chocolate, cookies, sweets). If your child insists on having them, make them understand you are on the same side. It is not your intention to ban these foods but to help them find the right balance.
• Soft drinks, squash. If your child is used to these, try to reduce them or dilute them gradually. Sugary, fizzy, acidic drinks are particularly harmful to children’s teeth. Even 100% fruit juice should be limited to no more than 150 ml per day. Water and milk are the best options.
Breathe and… take one step at a time
Trying to overhaul your child’s snack choices in a week will leave both you and your child overwhelmed. Take one step at a time and respect any reactions in a non-judgmental way. This doesn’t mean that you will allow your child to make unwise snack choices, but giving them space and encourage the right foods in a supportive way is much more valuable and sustainable than rushing them to change their eating habits in a short time.
Happy school year!
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