University of Illinois Extension
Skipnavigation Nibbles ... Ideas for Families

Kids & Food
Help Your Child Succeed
Your Child's Health
Challenges of Parenting
Learning to Get Along
Playtime Is Fun Time
The Day Care Routine

Snacks Are Important

It's hard for young children to go for long periods of time without feeling hungry. This is because their stomachs are small and can't hold much food at one sitting. Small meals, usually called snacks, can help pease the hungry child. When snacks are chosen from a wide variety of nutritious foods, they can contribute important nutrients to your child's diet.

Today, more than ever before, it's easy to have a poor diet, partly because of all the choices we have to choose from. Making wise choices regarding the food we eat requires an understanding of the facts. Selection of snacks should be based on more than taste and appearance. Nutritional value related to calories is an important indication of whether you're getting real food value in snacks.

Here are some characteristics to consider when choosing snacks:

  • Judge the actual nutritional contribution it makes to the diet. A nutritious snack should supply nutrients like vitamins, calcium and iron. Using the new Food Guide Pyramid is a good way to provide nutrients.
  • Plan the snacks around regular meal schedules. Snacks need not and should not interfere with or dull the appetite. Unfortunately, we do find that snacking and skipping meals are problems of many youngsters today.
  • Consider the number of calories a snack provides in the daily total. Snack foods should not be high in sugar or fat. Children enjoy sweet foods but too much sugar can cause cavities in their teeth. Too many foods high in sugar and fat can help cause children to become overweight. Try to set limits on the amount of sweet and fatty foods eaten.
  • Make the snack easy to obtain. Snacks prepared ahead of time for children can provide important nutrients while being a neat treat.
  • Choose foods that appeal in taste and appearance. If the snack does not look good, it is likely not to be eaten. Lot of this depends on YOU! Children will mimic you (act as you act) so be careful with words and facial expressions.

Here are some simple, nutritious snacks to make:

  • Ants On A Log --- celery sticks filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins.
  • Bunny Food --- combine grated carrots with raisins and a bit of honey and serve on crackers.
  • Fancy Sandwiches --- cut bread into shapes with cookie cutters and spread with favorite toppings (meat, cheese, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Orange Delight --- Mix in blender: 1/3 c. orange juice concentrate, 1/4 c. powdered milk, 1/2 banana or other fruit, 3/4 c. water, honey to taste, ice. (The more ice you add the slushier the drink becomes.)
  • Party Mix --- Mix 2 cups dry cereal and 1 cup small pretzel sticks. Place on cookie sheet, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and 1/3 cup melted margarine. Bake at 250 degrees F for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Roll-Up Salad --- Spread a cabbage or lettuce leaf with peanut butter. Place a celery or carrot stick in the middle and roll up the leaf.

Prepared by Beverly Combs, Extension Educator, Nutrition & Wellness