Snacks: Are they necessary for children?

Toddlers (1 to 3 years of age) still have small stomachs and cannot eat large portions at one sitting to meet their nutritional requirements. Hence, snacks are necessary to meet their requirements for growth. These snacks can be seen as nutritional complements to meals or a smaller portion of a meal for the day. “Between-meal snacks can also reduce the stress children experience from their parents/caregivers expectations that they consume all their nutritional requirements from 3 meals a day,” says Jasly Koo, Dietitian, from the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a member of the SingHealth group.

What snacks should you give to your child?

Snacking can help build or ruin a child’s healthful diet. The key depends on the type, amount and time the snack is consumed. A snack that is high in fat and sugar may contribute to empty calories, hence leading to weight gain. Moreover, if a snack is consumed in excessive amounts and/or too near to meal times, it may affect the child’s appetite for the main meal. So, parents should offer nutrient-dense foods as snacks, 2-3 hours apart from main meals. 

Nutrient-dense snacks are those that

  • provide carbohydrates (ideally with minimal or no added sugars),
  • are low in saturated and trans fats,
  • are rich in protein and/or other nutrients such as fibre, iron and calcium.

Below are some examples of healthy snacks that provide approximately 100-150 kcal per serving.

  1. 1 slice wholemeal bread or 1 small raisin bun with 1 slice reduced-fat cheese
  2. 1 piece pancake/half a waffle with peanut butter
  3. Half bowl cornflakes/branflakes with raisins
  4. Half roll 'chee cheong fun' (less sweet sauce)
  5. Half bowl red bean or green bean soup with less sugar
  6. 2 cheese cubes/1 cheese triangle with 2 plain crackers
  7. 1 small meat or vegetable 'pau'
  8. 1 serve fresh fruit
    (e.g. 1 small apple, 8 to 10 grapes,
    1 slice honeydew/watermelon)

9. 2 tablespoons raisins (25g) or
    3 prunes

10. 1 cup (250ml) plain low fat milk 
      or high-calcium reduced sugar soy milk

11. 1 small carton (200g) plain or 
      fruit low fat yoghurt

12. Half cup steamed/boiled corn
      (less butter or margarine) or chickpeas

13. 2 'siew mai'

For nine ways to encourage healthy snacking in children, read on.

Ref: N18